KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A civil lawsuit filed against the Hamblen County Sheriff’s Office seeks $40 million in damages for the death of a man who died in custody at the Hamblen County Jail last year.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Oscar Rodriguez’s daughter, who hadn’t been born yet when he died July 14, 2021.
According to the lawsuit, at the time of his arrest by Morristown Police, Rodriguez told officers he had ingested something, didn’t know what it was and that he needed to go to the hospital.
The lawsuit claims Rodriguez could not stand and pulled from the squad car to the ground and dragged into the jail by an officer. It claims he was put in a holding cell and left unattended for nearly 2 1/2 hours until a nurse found him unresponsive and lying on his back.
The suit argues that jailers should have known or suspected Rodriguez might have been facing acute drug intoxication and should have provided treatment. It accuses Hamblen County of deliberate indifference, negligence and failing to properly train jail staff to respond to medical emergencies.
The lawsuit also brings up issues raised about the jail in the past such as overcrowding, understaffing and failing to adequately monitor people in custody. The jail was temporarily decertified due to overcrowding in 2010.
The lawsuit seeks damages of $40 million, including $15 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages.
Hamblen County Sheriff Esco Jarnigan said Monday that he had received the lawsuit paperwork and declined to comment at this time.