Family says prisoner's medical problems ignored while in Brazoria County Jail

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Apr. 16, 2012, 11:00am

GALVESTON – The family of Brazoria County resident Jesse Ray Woodard have filed a lawsuit against the sheriff's department, alleging the man died while in custody.

The parents of Jesse Ray Woodard, Betty Jo and Arthur Woodard, filed a lawsuit March 28 in the Galveston Division of the Southern District of Texas against the Brazoria County Sheriff's Department. Jesse Ray Woodard's minor son is also a plaintiff.

The suit names Brazoria County Sheriff Charles Wagner, Dr. Charles Daniel Adams, Dr. Ricardo Victoria, registered nurse Charlene Cole, licensed vocational nurses Joseph Conner, Susan Hamlet and Debbie Kissinger and physician's assistants Abraham and Sandoval - whose first names are not listed in the case - as defendants.

According to the suit, Woodard was being detained in the Brazoria County Jail for an undisclosed offense on April 4, 2010. The plaintiffs allege he was not given proper medical care while in detention, which caused his death.

The defendants knew of the 27-year-old inmate's history of seizures and hypertension, according to the suit, because he had been in the county jail "numerous times in the past" and was treated for a seizure disorder with Dilantin.

The original petition claims the jail's medical staff and healthcare providers did not monitor Woodard for his condition nor give him the appropriate medication as he was going through drug withdrawal during his most recent incarceration, which began on March 28, 2010.

The alleged negligence caused Woodard's blood pressure and pulse to increase, prompting him to be sent to the infirmary on April 2, 2010.

Dr. Victoria recommended transfer to a local emergency room, but was overruled by Dr. Adams, "a decision that would ultimately lead to tragedy," the suit says.

Woodard was discharged, but another seizure forced him to return.

The suit states the infirmary staff learned from Arthur Woodard that the Jesse Ray Woodard was in a methadone program, but they allegedly let him continue to experience seizures rather than transport him to a nearby hospital.

Woodard was found not breathing and unresponsive later that night and rushed to the emergency room at Angleton Danbury Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

The Brazoria County Medical Examiner's Office determined the cause of death to be seizure disorder and hypertensive cardiovascular disease.

"Had the defendants simply gotten Mr. Woodard to the hospital when they should have, Mr. Woodard would still be alive," the suit alleges.

The plaintiffs seek unspecified monetary damages and are represented by attorney Jeff Edwards of Austin.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt is presiding over the case.

Case No. 3:12-cv-0095

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