Benton County Jail Sued In Inmate’s Death
The family of a woman who died in the Benton County Jail of cancer is suing jail officials and the former sheriff who were in charge at the time, saying they were negligent in the woman’s death.
Charlotte Ann Robinson, the administrator of the estate of Faith Denise Whitcomb, filed a lawsuit Thursday in federal court in Fayetteville against former Benton County Sheriff Keith Ferguson and jail doctors John Allan Huskins and Warran Scott Lafferty, according to court documents.
In the lawsuit, Robinson alleges that Whitcomb was visibly suffering from the physical effects of pancreatic cancer for several months before her death in May 2012, but that jail officials ignored her requests for medical attention and kept her in jail too long.
Whitcomb, 52, was arrested in July 2011 and later charged with felony drug offenses. Unable to pay her bond, she stayed in the Benton County Jail while awaiting her trial, according to the lawsuit. Judge Robin Green with the Benton County Circuit Court ordered Whitcomb be sent to the Arkansas State Hospital after a mental evaluation found her to be unfit to stand trial. She was to remain in state Department of Human Services custody until she was ready to stand trial, the suit states.
Robinson states Whitcomb was suffering from schizophrenia. The jail never transferred her to DHS custody, though, and Whitcomb started experiences severe pains a few months later. She submitted several requests for medical treatment, which were either ignored or met with prescriptions of Tylenol, which did not help her pain, the lawsuit states.
Whitcomb was found dead in her cell on May 3, 2012. A subsequent autopsy showed Whitcomb died from undiagnosed pancreatic cancer that had spread to her liver, lungs and lymph system. The lawsuit states that if Whitcomb had been taken to a hospital or given proper attention by the jail doctors, her pancreatic cancer could have been detected, and her life may have been saved.
In addition to the doctors, the lawsuit also faults Ferguson for Whitcomb’s death by stating that the former sheriff should have transferred Whitcomb into DHS custody the November before her death.
Summons were issued for Ferguson, Huskins and Lafferty on Thursday, according to court documents.