Georgia Jail Medical Staff Failed to Treat Man While Tumor Slowly Killed Him: Lawsuit

Gwinnett County Jail’s for-profit health provider NaphCare has been sued more than 100 times for malpractice and neglect.

Georgia Jail Medical Staff Failed to Treat Man While Tumor Slowly Killed Him: Lawsuit

Gwinnett County Jail’s for-profit health provider NaphCare has been sued more than 100 times for malpractice and neglect.

When Jordan Davidson arrived at Georgia’s Gwinnett County Jail in January 2021, he was a 22-year-old without apparent disabilities. Four months later, he could no longer walk, bathe himself, or use the bathroom. A year after he first entered the jail, he was dead.

As his condition worsened, Davidson repeatedly asked for help from the jail’s medical staff. Despite his numerous requests, they did practically nothing for months, according to a lawsuit filed last week by Davidson’s mother for medical malpractice and wrongful death against NaphCare, the jail’s for-profit healthcare provider, and several of its employees. 

“I am losing my motor skills in my hands. I can barely grip anything and it is extremely hard for me to lift my hands above my head and each day that goes by, it gets worse,” Davidson wrote to medical staff on Apr. 11, 2021. “I need assistance ASAP.”

Later that month, he pleaded for help again: “I am in constant pain and I can’t move my arms.”

In June 2021, medical staff finally sent Davidson to a hospital, where physicians diagnosed him with a tumor in his cervical spinal cord. He died on Jan. 9, 2022, due to complications from his quadriplegia, according to the complaint. 

“As a result of the negligence of NaphCare and its medical staff at Gwinnett County Jail, Jordan Davidson’s tumor and the spinal cord compression it caused went undiagnosed and were allowed to progress until it was too late,” reads the complaint. 

Representatives for NaphCare and the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to requests for comment by publication.

Inside the Gwinnett County Jail, Davidson’s condition rapidly deteriorated. In April 2021, he fell out of bed and told a nurse that he was dizzy and experiencing severe pain. But a NaphCare physician discharged Davidson from the infirmary, reassuring him that he would be fine and his condition was only temporary, according to the complaint. Neither statement was true. 

Throughout the rest of the month, Davidson begged the medical staff for help. At the end of April, medical personnel finally X-rayed his spine and hands but found no signs of fractures. 

On May 3, he was admitted to the infirmary for apparent nerve damage in his hands and pain in his left knee, ankle, and neck. He stayed at the infirmary for more than two weeks. During his stay, he needed a wheelchair and could not lift his arms above his head. Still, the doctors never ordered any neurological testing.

Despite his declining health, another NaphCare physician discharged Davidson from the infirmary on May 20, only for him to return the next day. Davidson reported that there was blood in his urine and bowel movements.

“I may as well be dead, I can’t use my hands to eat or wipe my ass,” he told a doctor. 

From June 1 to 3, medical staff noted his worsening condition. According to the complaint, medical staff had to change his diapers, bathe him, and help him eat. 

Finally, on June 4, the jail transferred Davidson to Gwinnett Medical Center, noting that he was “unable to get up” and “he is becoming [sic] total nursing care at the jail.” 

By the time Davidson arrived at the hospital, the damage was irreversible, according to the complaint. He died seven months later at Northside Hospital Gwinnett on Jan. 9, 2022.

Less than a year before Davidson’s death, another person incarcerated in Gwinnett County Jail died due to apparent medical neglect under NaphCare’s watch. In April 2021, 24-year-old Deion Strayhon suffered a ruptured ulcer. According to a lawsuit filed by his family, he had complained of stomach pain and other symptoms for weeks but only received medications for constipation and nausea. Strayhon’s family sued NaphCare and several medical personnel who worked at the jail, including three defendants in Davidson’s suit.

The Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office ended its contract with NaphCare several months after Strayhon’s death. However, the company still provides healthcare at jails, prisons, and immigration detention centers across the United States, including several other facilities in the Atlanta area. According to federal court records, incarcerated patients and their families have sued the Alabama-based company for medical neglect more than 100 times in the past three years. 

Over and over again, NaphCare has been accused of inadequate staffing and refusing to send people to hospitals and outside specialists. One Virginia judge who approved a settlement with NaphCare said the lawsuit involved “some of the most appalling, inhumane conditions to which the undersigned judge has been privy to in over thirty years on the federal bench.'”

An investigation by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealed eight in-custody deaths at the Gwinnett County Jail in 2021, the highest number out of the state’s five largest jails. However, nearby Fulton County, which also contracts with NaphCare, surpassed this record with more than a dozen deaths in 2022, according to documents from the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office obtained by The Appeal.  

Last September, Lashawn Thompson was found unconscious in a filthy cell in Fulton County Jail’s psychiatric unit, covered in feces and lice. According to jail incident reports, officers raised concerns about Thompson before his death and asked medical staff to intervene. According to a report by NaphCare, at the time of Thompson’s death, most people in his unit were so severely malnourished that they had developed cachexia. This wasting syndrome typically affects people with advanced-stage cancer. 

On Wednesday, the Fulton County Commissioners voted to approve a more than $4 million contract with NaphCare to provide medical and mental health services through the end of the year.  

NaphCare no longer provides medical services at the Gwinnett County Jail. Nonetheless, in May, the Gwinnett County Commissioners approved a $1.7 million contract extension between NaphCare and the Gwinnett County Department of Corrections, which has about 450 people in custody.

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