Suit charges Davis jail returned prescription drugs to addict before overdose

Monday , July 09, 2018 - 2:56 PM

SALT LAKE CITY — A man overdosed on prescription drugs that were returned to him upon his release from jail, then died in a holding cell after he was re-arrested a few hours later, a lawsuit against Davis County says.

Gregory Leigh Hayes, 33, was not checked by a physician before he was booked and put into a holding cell, contrary to a jail policy requiring such when an arrestee has signs of drug abuse or withdrawal, attorneys charged in the lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court.

RELATED: Police investigate death of man in Davis jail's booking area

Susan Johnson of Layton, Hayes’ mother, who is raising the man’s 2-year-old son, is the plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Hayes’ death on Dec. 14, 2017, was the latest in a string of seven fatalities in the Davis County Jail since June 2016. Two of the other deaths also resulted in federal lawsuits against the county and Sheriff Todd Richardson.

Deaths in the Davis, Weber County and other Utah jails — a record 25 in 2016, according to sheriff’s office reports from around the state — sparked official scrutiny at the state level.

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The Utah Legislature in March passed a bill requiring county jails and state prisons to file annual reports of in-custody deaths. Previously, there was no state mandate of disclosure.

Meanwhile, the Utah Department of Corrections and the Utah Sheriffs’ Association formed a committee to write new, publicly available jail standards. Before, the association and the state kept the standards private.

Another initiative ordered by the Legislature addresses cases such as Hayes’. Lawmakers mandated a study of opioid addiction and withdrawal treatment programs in county jails.

RELATEDState starts work on Utah jail death reports, substance abuse study

Hayes spent two months in the Davis jail on drug charges and used that time “trying to overcome his addiction,” said the lawsuit.

Court records show Hayes had been in and out of jail several times in 2016 and 2017 on felony DUI and misdemeanor drug possession charges.

When he was released from jail at 1:18 p.m. Dec. 13, 2017, to continue his rehabilitation at his brother’s house, the belongings returned to him included bottles of Clonazepam and Buprenorphine, medications Hayes had abused in the past, according to the suit.

The jail did not tell Hayes’ brother, Andrew, that he had the drugs, the suit added. At Andrew’s house, Hayes learned his estranged wife was dating another man. He then took all the pills returned to him by the jail, plus an over-the-counter sleeping medication.

At 6:53 p.m., Andrew called Clearfield police, asking for an ambulance to take Hayes to a hospital. Before an ambulance arrived, a Clearfield officer arrived and asked Hayes if he wanted to go to the hospital or back to jail.

The suit said Hayes told the officer he did not need an ambulance. The officer took Hayes to the Farmington jail and the man was booked at 7:53 p.m.

Hayes had the same Clonazepam bottle with him, but now it was empty, according to the suit. 

The jail knew Hayes was being arrested for abusing his prescription medicine, but he received no medical treatment or supervision after he was processed through booking, the suit alleged.

A booking officer found Hayes unresponsive in a holding cell at 5:33 a.m. the following day, the suit said, and he was pronounced dead at 6:13 a.m.

The jail lacks clear policies and protocols on providing basic medical attention to new arrivals, and appears to have violated one that says “inmates displaying signs of drug, alcohol abuse, or withdrawal should not be accepted until they have been seen and cleared by a physician,” the suit said.

“Gregory was caused to endure prolonged pain and suffering leading up to the time of his death, even though his condition could have been diagnosed, treated, and stabilized,” the suit said. “They instead left him in booking to ‘sleep it off’ until the morning.”

The suit seeks monetary damages and an injunction requiring the county to implement policies providing arrestees with medical attention that complies with national standards.

Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said Monday he had no immediate comment on the suit. Local governments usually decline to comment about civil litigation.

RELATED: Davis jail death plaintiff blasts secrecy and 'callousness'

Efforts to reach Tad Draper, Johnson’s attorney, were not immediately successful.

Draper is also representing Cynthia Stella, who sued Davis County over the Dec. 21, 2016, death of her daughter, Heather Miller, after a fall in the jail.

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Johnson, 56, and her husband, Kenneth, 59, are busy caring for her son’s boy.

“It’s bittersweet,” Johnson said. “We are glad to have him. He looks just like my son when he was that age.”

She said she thanks God for giving her strength to raise Hayes’ toddler, Gregory II.

“I never planned to be raising a grandchild at all,” she said. “I’m not 25 anymore. But I can’t imagine my life without him at this point.”

You can reach reporter Mark Shenefelt at mshenefelt@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mshenefelt and like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/SEMarkShenefelt.

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