Jury: Care adequate for inmate at Washington jail

April 15, 2014
Exterior of Washington County Correctional Facility - Jim McNutt/Observer-Reporter Order a Print

A federal jury in Pittsburgh returned a verdict Monday in favor of Washington County and a county jail captain in a civil case brought by a former inmate who claimed he was denied adequate medical care when suffering epileptic seizures.

David D. Wise, 33, of Washington, was sentenced in April 2010 for the death of Deborah Brown, 61, of Canonsburg, in a Sept. 13, 2006, crash at Racetrack Road and Meadowlands Boulevard, North Strabane Township.

Brown died three months after the wreck of her injuries, and Wise, who also was injured, was found to have a medical history of seizures. Judge John DiSalle sentenced Wise to serve 3 to 23 months in the county jail followed by one year of state probation.

Wise suffered a seizure May 15, 2010, at the jail, where he was administered two different medications to control his epilepsy.

Jail personnel attempted to revive Wise with oxygen, but he claimed the tank was empty. He was taken to Washington Hospital, where he claims he was in a coma for three days.

After his hospitalization, Wise was returned to the jail, where, on May 26, 2010, he suffered a second seizure. He claimed jail Capt. Michael King began screaming at him and failed to provide treatment, ordering another guard to place handcuffs on Wise and then dragging him to a holding cell in a wheelchair and “dumping him onto the floor, face first,” so that Wise suffered elbow injuries when he broke his fall, according to court documents filed by attorney Lawrence H. Fisher. Kept in isolation for 26 days, he alleged he was denied work release.

Federal Judge Nora Barry Fisher, who presided at the weeklong trial, found in favor of a corrections officer identified only as Kelley, and corrections nurses Victoria Goroncy and Luanne Rossi.

The jurors deliberated for about 90 minutes Monday before finding in favor of King and Washington County regarding a third incident in July 2010, shortly before Wise was paroled, and the inmate’s constitutional right to receive adequate medical care while incarcerated.

“I would point out that none of the allegations was true and that there was a jury verdict in favor of the county,” wrote Scott Fergus, Washington County director of administration, in an email. “We believe there is a possibility that the county may be awarded attorney fees. The evidence was that the correctional facility at all times was aware of Mr. Wise’s condition and that he also was at all times provided proper medical care.”

The case is likely to be brought up a meeting of the Washington County prison board at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Fergus said.

Barbara S. Miller covers politics, Washington County government and a variety of other topics for the Observer-Reporter. She is a graduate of Washington & Jefferson College, majoring in English and history. Follow her on Twitter @reporterbarb.

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