Lawsuit alleges jail staff, private contractor ignored man’s calls for help

Joseph McClimans spent just nine days in the Tippecanoe County Jail during the summer of 2016 before a heart attack took his life.

A lawsuit filed by a representative of his estate in Tippecanoe County last week alleges McCliman’s death could have been prevented had he received proper medical care.

McClimans had a lengthy criminal history dating back to 1997, according to court records, often involving drugs, alcohol or theft. On May 27, 2016, he was incarcerated in the Tippecanoe County Jail on theft charges.

Upon entering the facility, he was placed immediately in a padded cell with video surveillance to undergo detoxification, according to the lawsuit.

Soon after, the suit alleges, McClimans began making loud and increasingly desperate calls for assistance because chest pains led him to believe he was having a heart attack.

But those pleas for help went unanswered, according to court documents filed Thursday.

His kicking and yelling was attributed to the detox, which resulted in the jail’s staff refusing medical treatment or even a well-being check, according to the suit.

It wasn’t until 12:47 p.m. June 4 that a staff member checked on McClimans in the padded cell, the documents allege.

The staff member found McClimans in need of revival. CPR was administered, and the inmate was loaded onto a gurney and taken to a hospital.

One day later, court documents say, McClimans died with major blockages in two of his heart’s arteries.

Sheriff Barry Richard is named as a defendant in the suit, along with six members of the jail’s correctional and medical staffs.

The county had hired a private contractor, Quality Correctional Care, in June 2015 to provide medical care to inmates. It is also named as a defendant.

Based in Delaware County, Indiana, Quality Correctional Care claims to save its clients millions in medical costs, according to its website.

The company’s owner, Lisa Scroggins, said Friday that it has expanded to serve more than 50 counties in Indiana since its founding in 2011.

When Tippecanoe County requested proposals in 2015 from private medical companies that cater to correctional facilities, it received three submissions, according to county documents. Of the three, Quality Correctional Care was the cheapest, quoting a price of $513,126 — more than $12,000 less than its closest competitor.

The terms of the proposal at the time stipulated that Quality Correctional Care provide 16 hours of nursing care per day, seven days per week, along with 40 hours of mental health care per week.

“It’s only the hours of sleep that there isn’t a nurse on site,” Scroggins said.

Although state and federal online records show Quality Correctional care has been litigated before, Scroggins said no lawsuit has ever made its way into a courtroom.

“We live in a litigious society,” she said, citing the reputation of personal injury lawyers as an example.

Quality Correctional Care is still providing services to the Tippecanoe County Jail, though it is not clear when that arrangement expires.

Sheriff Barry Richard had not returned a call for comment Friday about the lawsuit or the contract as of Sunday evening.

This article was first published by Purdue Exponent.

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