The family of a former Mobile County Metro Jail inmate are pushing an excessive force lawsuit after an altercation with local corrections officers two years ago resulted in the paralysis of Brandon Jeffries — an 18-year-old with multiple diagnosed behavior disorders.
Originally from Cullman, Jeffries was formerly a resident of an AltaPointe group home on Three Notch Road. Diagnosed with multiple behavior and impulse control disorders, he was prescribed at least three psychotropic medications at the time.
On May 4, 2015, Jeffries was arrested on a misdemeanor assault charge for an incident at his group home. An AltaPointe therapist accused Jeffries of being disruptive and threatening people with a pocket knife, according to a Mobile County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) spokeswoman.After roughly six weeks at Metro, Jeffries allegedly became disruptive, causing security team members to restrain him — an incident MCSO discussed with local media in stories related to the jail’s increased level of mentally ill inmates.
At the time, authorities briefly mentioned Jeffries “complaining about numbness in his legs” following the altercation.
However, it’s the extent of Jeffries’ injuries and the medical care he received at the jail serving as the basis of his family’s civil lawsuit. The litigation was filed against Mobile County, Sheriff Sam Cochran, several corrections officers and medical personnel as well as NaphCare Inc. — a third-party inmate health care provider with a freshly renewed contract in Mobile County.
June 11, 2015
In a sprawling complaint filed in 2015, Jeffries’ attorneys made several allegations against a number of parties. At least a dozen of Metro’s corrections officers are named as defendants, each of whom were allegedly involved in the altercation or interacted with Jeffries afterward.
His family contends Jeffries immediately reported his injuries but was never taken to the jail’s internal medical clinic.
Instead, they say he was placed in an empty cell on suicide watch without consulting any mental health or medical staff personnel. According to the complaint, it was around that time Jeffries realized he couldn’t walk.
From the time Jeffries was placed in the cell until he was transported to the hospital, he was observed by several staff members — including medical personnel employed by NaphCare. He also allegedly reported that he “could not feel his legs” and that his “shoulders were burning.”
The complaint claims even after those symptoms were reported to a ranking officer, calls to the “medical clinic maintained and operated by NaphCare” received no response. His attorney, Trent Lowry, told Lagniappe Jeffries’ neck was broken for “at least 20 hours” before he was taken to the emergency room for treatment.
In addition to the county staff embroiled in the lawsuit, at least four NaphCare employees and the corporation itself are named as defendants because the company was contracted to provide medical services in the jail and provide medical training for its staff.
Jeffries’ legal team contends the training NaphCare provided was “wanton” and “inadequate” given that multiple staff members failed to recognize the spinal cord injury and paralysis of the inmate. At one point, after learning of Jeffries’ symptoms, a NaphCare employee allegedly recommended an ibuprofen, though he never received it.
In depositions collected by Jeffries’ attorneys, even some of the supervisors at Metro Jail admitted there were problems with the way the situation was handled. In one, Warden Trey Oliver said, “it appears that he did not get the medical attention that he needed and deserved in the time that it should have been delivered.”
Yet, just last month, Cochran and much of his staff were supportive of NaphCare as the Mobile County Commission considered renewing its contract with the jail. Even Oliver said he was “pleased the contract had been renewed.” At least one official had some concerns, though.
In a June 26 meeting, Commission President Merceria Ludgood raised questions about NaphCare’s performance at the jail. An experienced attorney though, she was precise with her words, saying her concerns were over “staffing issues.”
“Deputy Warden [Sam Houston] is very much in support of the work that they’re currently doing,” MCSO Finance Director Mary Calhoun responded. “Every inmate health care provider that we’ve had has had some kind of staffing issues. It’s the nature of the beast.”
After that meeting though, Ludgood did make reference to the pending lawsuit, which unlike many brought by former inmates, has been actively proceeding for nearly two years.
“I think we do have one lawsuit pending that had to do with an injury and how it was handled,” Ludgood said of NaphCare’s contract renewal. “For me anyway, when you have that, it kind of raises a red flag because basically, we’re accountable.”
Before the vote, Cochran sent a letter to each of the commissioners recommending that NaphCare continue to provide medical services in Metro Jail through 2020. The letter also made clear that one of the determining factors in the department’s decision was the cost of service.
In the letter, Cochran wrote that the committee which reviews the submitted bids had recommended NaphCare based on four factors, three of which were centered on preventing additional expenses for the jail.
NaphCare’s proposed pricing — “$908,760 lower than the next lowest proposal” — its “proactive approach” to health care and its immediate evaluation of new inmates were all cited as things that help keep Metro’s “catastrophic expenses as low as possible.”
In an amended complaint, Lowry wrote that NaphCare’s business model has been successful by “underbidding the competition and implementing services with severe cost control measures with respect to inmate medical and mental health care.”
“The foreseeable result of which is unnecessary inmate suffering and constitutionally insufficient healthcare and mental health care,” he added.
Representatives for MCSO and Mobile County declined to comment publicly on this report citing active litigation. One of Jeffries’ attorneys declined to provide a statement about the case, and similar calls to NaphCare’s legal counsel have so far gone unanswered.