JACKSON COUNTY — A federal judge has extended a deadline for the court-appointed estate administrator of an inmate suffering from an acute mental health crisis who died last year after spending 20 days in solitary confinement at the Jackson County Jail to make a settlement proposal to a contractor that provides medical care at the jail.
On Monday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Kellie M. Barr gave the estate administrator until Nov. 13 to make a settlement proposal to the contractor, Advanced Correctional Healthcare Inc., according to filings in U.S. District Court in New Albany.
The inmate, Josh McLemore, 29, died in August 2021 from multiple organ failure as a result of dehydration and malnutrition after being locked naked in a padded isolation cell for nearly “every second of every day for almost three straight weeks,” according to a complaint filed earlier this year by Melita Ladner, McLemore’s aunt and the court-appointed administrator of his estate.
The civil lawsuit names Advanced Correctional Healthcare, Jackson County and several employees as defendants.
The order on Monday came just days after Barr said that the court had been notified that the estate had reached a settlement agreement with Jackson County, as well as Jackson County Sheriff Rick Meyer, Jackson County Jail Commander Chris Everhart, night shift Sgt. Scott Ferguson and nurse Milton Edward Rutan.
Barr gave the parties 60 days to file “the appropriate dismissal papers.”
Currently, it is unclear how much the settlement with Jackson County is for. An attorney representing McLemore’s estate said “we’re not in a position to comment or disclose the amount of the settlement at this time.”
Jackson County Attorney Susan Bevers told The Republic on Monday that “no settlement has been finalized” in the case and that county has no further comment.
“At this time, no settlement has been finalized, and no agreement is in place yet,” Bevers said. “Therefore, Jackson County does not have comment to make or information to provide. Until such time as the order grants a dismissal, Jackson County will have no comment.”
The settlement with Jackson County, however, would not resolve the estate’s claims against Advanced Correctional Health Inc., as well as one of the contractor’s employees.
McLemore, who had a history of schizophrenia and substance abuse, was arrested in July 2021 and held at the Jackson County Jail for allegedly pulling a nurse’s hair at Schneck Medical Center, where Seymour police had taken him for an evaluation after finding him “naked and incoherent” at a local residence, according to local court records.
The lawsuit alleges, among other things, that jail officials and the contractor exhibited “deliberate indifference” to McLemore’s health as it deteriorated and failed to intervene and secure the medical and mental health care he needed.
Jail officials also allegedly failed to maintain required observation logs and comply with state laws governing solitary confinement, only allowing McLemore to leave his cell “when guards would forcibly remove him and strap him into restraint devices so they could put him under a shower and clean his cell,” the lawsuit states.
Due to being in a “constant state of psychosis,” McLemore ate and drank very little while being held at the Jackson County Jail, losing 45 pounds in 20 days, the complaint states.
Jail officials allegedly didn’t notice that McLemore needed medical attention until his condition was “so dire” that Schneck Medical Center did not not have the clinic resources to treat him, the lawsuit states. McLemore instead had to be airlifted to a Cincinnati hospital, where he later died.
The civil lawsuit comes after Jackson County Prosecutor Jeffrey Chalfant determined last year that no jail employees were criminally liable for McLemore’s death even though the inmate “most likely died due to a prolonged lack of attention” by jail staff, according to a 12-page report by Chalfant that concluded a nine-month investigation.
Advanced Correctional Health Inc. has denied allegations in the lawsuit that it engaged in “unconstitutional customs and practices” at the jail and that medical care that McLemore received while behind bars “was not dictated or driven by” its policies, customs or systemic issues.
The company also has defended the actions of its employee, Dr. Ronald Everson, who is described in the lawsuit as having “policy making responsibilities” regarding medical care at the jail, arguing that he “was not personally involved” in the alleged constitutional violations and that the medical care he provided to McLemore “was reasonable and within the community standard of care,” according to the court filing.