Feds Confess Liability for Death of Ignored Inmate In Alabama Jail
His name is Phillip Anderson, a 49-year-old Army veteran and a father who died in agony from a perforated ulcer while incarcerated in a jail in Alabama. Why was he locked up? He was arrested for missing a child-support hearing in 2013. Anderson was driving with one of his children when he encountered a roadblock. There the local officers discovered he had a warrant because of his child support case and arrested him.
When Anderson was moved to the Tuscaloosa jail, he immediately began to vomit after his meal and was reported that he was unable to keep food down. Anderson was given medication for pain which invertedly worsened the ulcers and constipation. By February 13th, Anderson became gravely ill and began to cry out loud. “This man hollered for three days straight, all night long,” one of the inmates, Gaffery Buggs, told NBC News.
“This man was really hurting.”
But another inmate, Eric Ligon, said in a statement that the jail staff accused Anderson of pretending to be ill and yelled at him, demanding him to get up. In fact, several inmates claimed they attempted to assist Anderson by dragging him to the restroom.
During his overnight shift, a guard noticed the inmate folded into a fetal position, crying out in obvious pain. The guard Jeremiah Van Horn immediately sought help but after several hours of attempting to convince the medical staff at Tuscaloosa County Jail that Anderson was sick, he was finally told by the staff that the inmate must be faking and he did not need their medical attention. “I called every 30 minutes until I was told to stop calling,” he said. But Van Horn knew better
“He was in excruciating pain…I started praying, ‘Oh Lord, can you see what’s wrong?'”
Van Horn left the inmate’s side after the end of his overnight shift. That morning two detention officers, Sgt. Kenneth Abrams and Patrick Collard checked on Anderson and claimed that Anderson had sprinted towards the bathroom. Others disagree with their accounts and claim Anderson was to sick to run. Either way, Anderson ended up in the bathroom and soon passed out. A nurse directed the sick inmate back to his cell in a pool of urine and claimed he was pretending.
Two hours later, Anderson collapsed and after several attempts to revive Anderson, the staff took him to the hospital, still in handcuffs. The doctors discovered the Anderson was suffering from a perforated ulcer and they immediately took him into surgery. Anderson died soon after on the operating table.
After Anderson’s death, Van Horn’s supervisor demanded to write a statement in regards to his contact with Anderson earlier that day. Van Horn wrote and when he handed his statement, the supervisor tore up the paper and demanded a new one with less detail.
Anderson’s son decided to file a lawsuit against both the county and the federal government because of Anderson’s tragic death. The lawsuit claimed that”He simply could not survive the poison that ran through his system from the duodenal ulcer that had perforated at the jail…Defendants subjected Mr. Anderson to nothing less than a slow sadistic torture that led to his death.”Anderson’s son 31-year-old Phillip Fikes said
“I just feel like they didn’t care. I hope and pray no one else has to go through what we went through.”
Eventually, the Health service admitted liability even though there were available funds for medical services and treatments for all inmates provided by an NGO that is supported by the US federal government. The judge decided to hold two jail officers Abrams and Collard accountable for the inmate’s death though they are planning to appeal.
The attorney representing Anderson’s family, David Schoen, said his death “was the direct product of a system that treats an African-American citizen of modest means as something less than human. Only now, three years later has the federal government on behalf of the medical staff admitted their role in causing Mr. Anderson’s death,” he said. A medical expert hired by Schoen concluded that Anderson’s death was preventable and that medical staff “neglected obvious and ominous signs of his worsening health.”
Travis Wisdom represents the county, sheriff and jail staff claiming
“Do we want untrained people overruling professional doctors in our society?”
Contact Jones Brown PLLC
Law enforcement and prison guards have certain legal obligations to the inmates that they detain. When a citizen is taken into custody, the police department and the jail assume responsibility for the safety and well-being of that person. If they fail to protect the inmates, then the city, county, or state can be held liable for their actions or inactions.
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