Trial for Inmate with Undetected Broken Neck

A U.S. District judge has told defense lawyers for the Knox County Sheriff’s Office in the case of a county jail inmate whose fractured neck was left undetected and untreated for over two months that they should prepare to put their trial suits on.

For the second time, the Knox County Law Department has failed to convince U.S. District Judge Pamela Reeves to throw a lawsuit filed on behalf of former county jail inmate Donald Nichols out of court. Nichols suffered a fractured neck after a fall from his bunk in August 2010, and it took seventy days along with a number of alleged care failures by jail medical staff before the injury was finally discovered.

Medical Staff to Blame?
028fda9987404385162df8fa083d1e92The county first insisted that the Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Jimmy Jones were not to be held accountable if it was the medical staff which provided Nichols with such a low standard of care. However, this argument was shot down by Judge Reeves last year, saying that Nichols’ case presented a rarity in civil-rights legislation against a government agency – there was proof that the county knew that its medical staff’s performance was so bad, as the entire medical department had been reprimanded for their standard of performance prior to the fall.
Since then, attorneys Robert Kurtz, Arthur Knight, and Jonathan Taylor have reached settlements with some of the key medical staff involved with Nichols’ care, including Nurse Amy Luxford, who was accused of the largest portion of the failures alleged by the plaintiffs.


Because of this, the law department argued that the county should subsequently be absolved of blame as Luxford has settled out of court and is no longer party to the federal lawsuit.

Judge Disagrees
However, despite the arguments set out by the county, Judge Reeves released a strongly-worded, four-page opinion filed in September, and ordered the case set for trial in July 2015. She wrote that the removal of Nichols from his official capacity claims against Amy Luxford does not in any way absolve Knox County of liability for allegations of implementing and maintaining customs and policies which were the moving force behind the violation of Nichols’ constitutional rights.
Then aged 56, Nichols was booked into the jail on a charge of violating an order of protection in early August 2010. On August 27, 2010, Nichols fell off the top bunk which he had been assigned whilst sleeping, fracturing his neck and injuring his vertebrae. This resulted in an emergency medical call, with nurses Amy Luxford and Deanna Jones responding, according to court records.