The family of ReGina Thurman is suing her jailers and nurses following Thurman’s preventable death behind bars in Jackson County, Missouri.
According to the lawsuit, which was provided to Reason by one of the lawyers on the case, Thurman passed away on January 20, 2017, while being admitted to the Jackson County Department of Corrections. Thurman told authorities that she had chest pain and that one of her legs was numb. Unbeknownst to Thurman, her aorta was tearing. According to the suit, her jailers should have recognized her symptoms as signs of either a tear specifically, or some kind of heart attack.
Yet neither the prison guards nor jail medical staff, who were contracted through Correct Care Solutions, L.L.C., took Thurman’s complaints seriously.
Rather than contacting emergency services, a guard had Thurman wheeled into a dressing room so she could change into her jail clothes. When Thurman ended up on the floor, another guard assumed that she was intentionally holding her breath. That guard told her to breathe, relax, and put the clothes on. A third joked that Thurman was suffering from “jail-litus” during the intake process.
Thurman was screened by a nurse named Jennifer Grimshaw, who checked her vital signs. This was the only medical care she received before she died.
A second nurse by the name of Miranda VanStratten documented that she checked Thurman’s vital signs multiple times through the evening. She said that they appeared to be normal and offered Thurman Tums tablets as she believed Thurman had heartburn.
Video from the jail revealed that VanStratten had not actually taken the vital signs as she said. Videos also revealed that Thurman was left alone without attention from a guard or nurse for 18 minutes at one point.
Thurman was threatened by a nurse when she was commanded to stand, despite her crying on the floor that she was in pain and unable to move. The nurse said that if she did not stand, she would be sent to the medical housing where she would be unable to make calls to her family.
A fellow inmate had already called Thurman’s daughter while the incident unfolded. The inmate told Thurman’s daughter that Thurman was experiencing chest pains and was being ignored. The inmate later said that she believed Thurman would get care if her daughter called the facility. Other inmates helped Thurman by alerting the guards or assisting her in standing.
Emergency paramedics were not called until after Thurman went pulseless.
The lawsuit demands compensation from the guards, the nurses, the county, and the medical contractor. Thurman family lawyers argue that the corrections staff and the medical staff breached their duties “by failing to, among other things, exercise reasonable and ordinary care, skill, and diligence in devising an adequate health care delivery system, promulgating and implementing adequate medical policies and procedures, training and supervising medical and nursing personnel, and actually providing the medical care and treatment ReGina Thurman required.”
The lawsuit also criticized the “reckless or callous indifference toward ReGina Thurman’s health and safety.”