Settlement Reportedly Reached in Federal Lawsuit Over Inmate's Death

September 12, 2012
Dwayne Page
Jackie Lee Snider

A settlement has reportedly been reached in a federal court lawsuit against DeKalb County and others over the death of an inmate while in the custody of the Sheriff's Department over two and a half years ago. Terms of the settlement have not been made public.

Doris Hullett filed the lawsuit over a year and a half ago in the death of her son, Jackie Lee Snider, who was arrested December 31, 2009 and died on January 30, 2010 after being taken from the jail to DeKalb Community Hospital. According to the lawsuit, "the medical examiner reported that Snider died of pancreatitis, which is an extremely painful and serious medical condition. If Snider's pancreatitis had been treated on or before the morning of January 30, 2010, Snider would have survived without permanent, long term consequences," according to the lawsuit.

A source confirmed this week for WJLE that the case has been settled but said that all parties involved have been instructed not to discuss it. WJLE placed a call Monday to the office of Cynthia Wilson in Cookeville, Hullett's attorney but she would not comment.

The lawsuit alleged that the defendants violated Snider's constitutional rights when they denied him reasonable medical care for his serious medical condition, thereby causing him extensive pain and suffering and ultimately death

In the latest court filing in the case, Judge John Bryant granted a motion last month filed jointly by the parties to extend
deadlines, for a new trial date, and for order of mediation. As grounds for this motion, the parties stated that they had scheduled a private mediation of this case for August 20, 2012, and sought to defer current pretrial deadlines in the hope that a settlement at this mediation would eliminate the necessity for serving expert witness reports and other related costs.

Judge Bryant granted the motion but said that "the Court, however, notes that if this case does not
settle at the scheduled mediation or soon thereafter, the trial date will need to be rescheduled because of the local rule requiring at least 90 days between completion of briefing of a dispositive motion and the trial date. With a current deadline of December 20, 2012, for the filing of dispositive motions, the time required for filing responses and replies would not leave the required 90 days before the current trial date of March 23, 2012.

Hullett had originally asked for compensatory damages against all defendants, jointly and severally in the amount of $750,000; an award, including loss of consortium in the amount of $750,000; punitive damages in the amount of $1,250,000; attorney fees and litigation expenses in an amount to be determined at trial; and treble damages; plus such other and further legal and or equitable relief to which she may be entitled or the court deems proper.

Earlier this year, Judge Bryant granted a defense motion to dismiss certain claims in the lawsuit. Based upon a finding that the federal court lacked jurisdiction, Judge Bryant dismissed Hullett's claim under the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act, her wrongful death claim, and her claim for medical negligence without prejudice but stated in the order that she could "pursue these claims in Tennessee Circuit Court". Hullett's claim under the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act was also dismissed for lack of standing and failure to state a claim. The Court retained jurisdiction of Hullet's state law claims for civil conspiracy and outrageous conduct as well her claim for punitive damages.

Defendants named in the lawsuit are DeKalb County; Sheriff Patrick Ray, individually and in his official capacity as Sheriff; along with employees of the jail including the jail administrator and correctional officers, Kenneth Ray, Rick Smith, Jim Hendrix, Mark Nichols, Ernie Hargis, Kyle Casper, individually and in their official capacities; John Does 1-4; Renee Riddle, Licensed Practical Nurse, Robert Alan Stultz, Psychian's Assistant, and Southern Health Partners, Inc.

Southern Health Partners, Inc (SHP) is a company which performs the traditional state government function of providing health care to Jail detainees through a contractual relationship with the county.

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