Health and Safety

Filed - December 10, 2019

Crowson v. Washington County, Utah, et al

Martin Crowson suffered from metabolic encephalopathy while in Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility on an alleged parole violation.

Shockingly, the jail had no written policies related to core healthcare functions, and relied on a largely absentee physician to provide treatment. As a result, the jail’s medical personnel simply assumed Mr. Crowson was detoxing and treated him for substance withdrawal instead of conducting the necessary diagnostic tests and treating him appropriately. This worsened his condition and delayed access to the care he actually required.

Mr. Crowson filed an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah against the jail nurse and absentee doctor who failed to treat him appropriately. He also brought suit against the County, alleging that the County did not adequately train its staff and that its lack of written protocols for monitoring, diagnosing, and treating detainees led to Mr. Crowson’s poor treatment.

The district court denied summary judgment to the nurse, doctor, and County. As to the County, it found the jail’s healthcare policies “severely lacking” and reasoned that Mr. Crowson’s “maltreatment can be seen as an obvious consequence” of the County’s failures.

On appeal, the Tenth Circuit granted summary judgment to the nurse and qualified immunity to the doctor, but held that the claim against the County could move forward. In so holding, it explained that a County cannot escape liability when it is responsible for systemic failures. Accordingly, Mr. Crowson’s claim against the County may now proceed in the district court towards trial.

The County petitioned for rehearing and rehearing en banc, which we opposed. The Tenth Circuit denied the County’s petition.

We are representing Mr. Crowson on appeal along with the Schriever Law Firm.