Sisters blame state jail authority, others for brother's death

By Kyla Asbury | Mar 30, 2011

CHARLESTON -- Two sisters are suing the state jail authority after they claim the medical staff at the North Central Regional Jail neglected their brother's medical problems, which led to his death.

Joe DeLong, the executive director of the West Virginia Regional Jail & Correctional Facility Authority; Joseph C Thornton, Cabinet Secretary of Military Affairs and Public Safety; Primecare Medical, Inc.; Primecare Medical of West Virgina, Inc.; Dr. Antoine Katiny; and Sandra Harlow, a nurse practitioner, were also named as defendants in the suit.

In September 2008, Daniel Earl Callahan, 22, filled out a West Virginia Inmate Sick Call Non-emergency request form, complaining that he thought he was having seizures because he started to twitch and another inmate said his eyes rolled to the back of his head, according to a complaint filed March 3 in Kanawha Circuit Court.

On Sept. 23, 2008, a nurse saw Callahan and reported what he had stated in the request form. The following day, Callahan was treated for a gash to his head after he believed he had experienced another seizure.

Tabitha Alvarez, of Virginia, and Crystal Callahan, of North Carolina, claim their brother was again admitted to the medical unit on Sept. 28, 2008, this time for "seizure like activity."

The medical providers employed and/or contracted by Primecare at the jail knew or understood from their training and experience that Daniel Earl Callahan's seizure disorder was a serious medical illness that if left untreated and uncontrolled, could result in his death, according to the suit.

The sisters claim the defendants did not arrange for Daniel Earl Callahan to see a physician with expertise in seizure disorders, nor did they arrange for him to receive proper evaluation and treatment.

Daniel Earl Callahan was referred to Primecare's neurology clinic, where he was seen by Harlow and not by a neurologist "or other physician with expertise in evaluating and treating seizure disorders," according to the suit.

The sisters claim Harlow advised Katiny about Daniel Earl Callahan's seizure disorder, but neither she nor Katiny arranged for him to be evaluated, tested and treated by a physician with the appropriate expertise. Instead, Primecare prescribed medication for the seizure disorder, which failed to control the seizures.

On six occasions between October 2008 and February 2009, Daniel Earn Callahan was seen by a nurse and/or admitted to the medical unit of the regional jail for his seizure disorder, according to the suit.

On March 3, 2009, Daniel Earl Callahan was again admitted to the medical unit. The following morning, he had another seizure and continued to have seizures, resulting in status epilepticus, according to the suit.

The sisters claim their brother was rushed by ambulance to United Hospital Center on March 4, 2009, however, by the time he was sent to the hospital it was already too late to save his life.

United Hospital Center transferred Daniel Earl Callahan to Charleston Area Medical Center, where doctors determined that his EEG showed a flat line, but he was continued on ventilator support and became an organ donor, according to the suit.

On March 6, 2009, the sisters claim the Charleston Area Medical Center physicians pronounced Daniel Earl Callahan dead.

The defendants' failure to arrange for a proper evaluation and treatment of the inmate, despite their knowledge and awareness of his seizure disorder for more than five months failed to meet the standard of are applicable to the provision of medical care to an individual with a seizure disorder and demonstrated deliberate indifference to Daniel Earl Callahan's health and survival, according to the suit.

Allan N. Karlin, a Morgantown attorney representing the inmate's sisters, said prisoners are being deprived of adequate medical care in regional jails across the state.

"I'm concerned that the method of providing medical care for prisoners in the regional jail is a serious problem," Karlin said.

Karlin said proving inadequate medical care to the inmates violates United States laws, as well as state laws.

Alvarez and Crystal Callahan are seeking compensatory and punitive damages, as well as a declaratory and injunctive relief directing the defendants to take action to ensure that prisoners in the regional jails are provided with adequate medical care. They are being represented by Karlin, Jane E. Peak and Sarah W. Montoro.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 11-C-363

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