This week, a Michigan judge dismissed a lawsuit against a sheriff’s department accused of causing the peanut-allergy death of a prison inmate who ate a peanut butter sandwich.
According toMLive.com,the inmate, 30-year-old Paul Thurston, died on April 20, 2008. His brother, Gale Thurston, filed the lawsuit, alleging that the Sheriff’s Department failed to provide timely medical care, and that jail employees’ “deliberate indifference” to the allergic reaction violated his constitutional rights and led to Paul’s death.
Thurston had been arrested for assault and battery following an incident at a bar, and was booked into jail on April 19, 2008. During the intake screening process, he told deputies that he had a penicillin allergy, but according to the sheriff’s department, he did not say he had a peanut allergy.
In the early afternoon, a deputy delivered bag lunches, which contained peanut butter sandwiches, to the inmates. U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell, in his 14-page dismissal of the case, found that “Thurston took his without asking any questions about what was being served.” Footage from security cameras inside the jail show Thurston taking several bites of the sandwich after examining it. Then, “Thurston stood up, went to the cell door and reported that he was allergic to peanuts and would need epinephrine and an ambulance,” found Judge Bell.
Within moments, a deputy responded to his complaint, calling for a jail nurse. Sana Gaffney, a registered nurse, responded. She confirmed the allergic reaction, but jail workers couldn’t find an epinephrine injector with which to treat Thurston. An ambulance was dispatched at 12:22 p.m., as he began wheezing. He was pacing in his cell, and was too agitated to have his vital signs read. Thurston lost consciousness while waiting for the ambulance, and was pronounced dead at the hospital at 1:10pm.
U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell issued a summary judgment in the case, siding with the defense. In the 14-page opinion, he wrote “The Court finds that, on the facts alleged and supported by the record, no reasonable jury could find that any of these officers were deliberately indifferent to Thurston’s serious medical condition… All times after (Thurston) announced his condition, someone was working towards addressing the issue.,, And finally, one might feel a degree of inescapable skepticism that an adult with a severe peanut allergy would consume a plain peanut butter sandwich.”