Canyon jail inmate died when workers ignored requests for help, lawsuit says

The lawsuit alleges Alfred “Jeri” Young died after Canyon County Jail workers ignored his numerous requests for medical care. When he was found unresponsive in a holding cell, deputies took him to a Caldwell hospital. He never regained consciousness.

“One of the doctors at West Valley informed family and friends that if Mr. Young had been brought in sooner, he likely would have survived,” according to the federal lawsuit filed Friday by Herman Donald Tiller, Jr., a representative of Young’s estate. The lawsuit was filed against the county and several jail employees.

According to the lawsuit:

Young, 46, lived in Canyon County and was working on his master’s degree at Boise State University, where he worked in the Extended Studies Department. He was on probation and participating in drug court after his third DUI conviction, which he received in Nampa in 2011.

After a relapse, he was sent to jail in late February 2014 by his probation officer, to serve “discretionary time.” While there, he developed a respiratory infection.

Over a three-week period in March, Young asked several times to be seen by a health care provider for breathing difficulties, nausea, headaches, bloody vomit and other problems, but nothing was done.

On the morning of April 3, inmates alerted deputies that Young was having serious difficulty breathing and was having chest pain.

Young was examined by a jail nurse, who noted on the medical chart that Young’s pain was “10” on a scale of “1 to 10” and placed Young in a holding cell for “further assessment.”

Later that same morning a jail employee examined Young, noted that he did not appear to be in “acute distress,” and sent him back to his unit.

Later that day, Young was brought to a medical-exam room in a wheelchair with extreme chest pain. The nurse on duty wrote that his vital signs were within normal limits and did not indicate “pain or acute distress.”

He was placed in a holding cell to await later examination. No one checked on him for four hours.

“When they finally did, he was lying unresponsive on a bed and facing the wall. … Rather than call an ambulance, deputies loaded Young in a van and drove him to West Valley Medical Center ‘for further assessment.’ He was never seen by a doctor at the jail.”

Upon arrival at West Valley, physicians noted that Young’s situation was “dire.” He was comatose and put on life support.

Young never regained consciousness. At the request of his family, he was taken off life support April 6. He died that day.

Young was one of the inmate plaintiffs in a 2011 lawsuit against Canyon County. The American Civil Liberties Union sued Canyon County on behalf of Young, Lorraine Scott and any other affected inmates who allege jail officers retaliated against them for complaining about jail conditions.

Young alleged that even though he was a model inmate with no disciplinary offenses, he was retaliated against for filing grievances that the jail failed to provide him a special diet he needed because of food allergies, and that the jail’s medical staff doubled his medication, causing a severe reaction for which he did not receive treatment.

The ACLU and the county eventually reached a settlement agreement to resolve the case, with the county agreeing to change how it processed grievances.

Young’s estate is seeking unspecified damages.

A county spokesman declined to comment, referring the Statesman to the county’s insurer, the Idaho Counties Risk Management Program, which is handling the case. ICRMP did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday afternoon.

Cynthia Sewell: 208-377-6428, @CynthiaSewell

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