JOHNSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) – A federal civil rights lawsuit claims the actions, or lack thereof, at the Johnson County Jail were “intentional and reckless” because they claim a man who apparently needed medical attention n was not taken to the Johnson County Jail. hospital. Instead, the lawsuit alleges he sat in a jail cell without adequate medical care for two days.
The lawsuit describes a “gross abuse of power and abuse of basic human dignity against a Latino man who was in desperate need of medical assistance.”
Attorney Christopher Rogers filed the lawsuit on behalf of his clients, Juan Carlos Casanova and his wife Jenny Casanova. The lawsuit names multiple parties at fault, including Johnson County, Sheriff Edward Tester, Johnson County Jail and its health care provider, Quality Correctional Health Care, among other parties.
“They were deliberately indifferent to his condition. He was left there to die,” Rogers told News Channel 11 in an exclusive interview.
Juan Carlos Casanova was jailed in Johnson County Jail after an accident involving a reported DUI.
Court documents show he was convicted in a bench trial in late May of driving under the influence, driving without a license and an open container.
However, the next 48 hours that Juan Carlos spent in prison is what the Casanova family say changed their lives forever.
“Everyone in this prison for this weekend saw him look like this and they chose not to do anything,” his wife Jenny Casanova said, pointing to a photo she took of her husband on his release. from the Johnson County Jail.
Juan Carlos does not speak English, which his lawyer says has led to communication problems with police and prison staff.
The lawsuit reads: “No certified Spanish translator was provided at the scene or during his incarceration.”
Jenny says she called the jail several times to check on her husband after the accident and his arrest.
“They assured me he was fine. So I thought, okay, maybe scared, but he’s fine. When I first saw him come out, I was horrified. I didn’t even recognize it. I really didn’t,” Jenny said.
From jail cell to hospital bed Trauma 1
As soon as he was released, Jenny took her husband straight to Johnson County Community Hospital in Mountain City. Here, she says, doctors told her Juan Carlos needed emergency surgery and should be rushed to Johnson City Medical Center’s Level 1 Trauma Unit immediately.
“He broke 4, 5 and 6 vertebrae in his neck and he also had a broken arm. Vertebra number 5 was crushed to the point that it jammed his back artery, so he was bleeding to death from inside,” Jenny recalled of her conversations with doctors.
“Potentially he could have died if he hadn’t had a loving wife who made sure he got out as soon as possible and rushed him to the hospital,” Rogers said.
The lawsuit argues that Juan Carlos’ civil rights were violated in prison, reading, “The Sixth Circuit has repeatedly held that a remand prisoner is entitled to adequate medical care when it is apparent that the detainee needs medical attention”.
Rogers added to News Channel 11: “I would suggest that a broken arm and three broken vertebrae would be pretty obvious that he needs medical attention and he didn’t get it in jail or it wasn’t sufficient.”
Rogers also accuses the prison service of “cruel and unusual punishment” because his client was left sitting in a jail cell, handcuffed at one point with a broken arm.
The lawsuit reads: ‘Medical staff failed to transport him to hospital despite having obvious injuries and in immense pain.’
Rogers says the initial booking photo from the prison shows Juan Carlos favoring his broken arm.
“It’s the before photo of him. You can clearly see he’s in a lot of pain,” Rogers said, showing the booking photo.
Path to recovery and accountability
After six days at Johnson City Medical Center, three of which were spent in the intensive care unit, Juan Carlos was able to return home. But, his journey had only just begun.
After eight months of recovery, awaiting future surgeries, and now lifelong physical and emotional repercussions, the Casanovas say they have filed a lawsuit to raise awareness so this doesn’t happen again.
Jenny reflected on the crucial need for her husband to be in a trauma unit when he was in hospital, knowing that without his transfer to JCMC the outcome could have been very grim.
“He would be dead. The Johnson City doctors explained to me that he would have either bled to death from the artery or simply fallen from losing his balance.
Jenny thinks Juan Carlos’ race has led to discrimination.
“I think the color of his skin also his inability to speak English, he wasn’t able to tell them, ‘hey I’m hurt, it bothers me.’ He wasn’t able to tell them that and they didn’t even ask him,” Jenny said.
“There is a very small Hispanic population in Mountain City. I hadn’t realized how vulnerable they were until now. If it can happen to my husband, it can happen to anyone.
Jenny describes herself as someone who would never have imagined being dragged into any lawsuit. However, she says she and her husband could not sit around and wait for it to happen to someone else if the matter was swept under the rug.
“I wouldn’t want anyone to experience it, first hand. The shock, the anger, the helplessness,” Jenny said. “My anger is towards everyone involved. At any time they could have stopped and said “hey, something is wrong with this man”. And they didn’t.
When News Channel 11 contacted a spokesperson for the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office to comment on the allegations, they replied that no statement would be made as there was ongoing litigation.
We did, however, receive a response from Johnson County officials and the prison’s health care provider, Quality Correctional Health Care.
These responses are provided below in full:
QCHC is pleased to provide quality healthcare services to inmates at Johnson County Jail. QCHC denies the allegations set out in Plaintiff’s Complaint and intends to vigorously defend this matter. We reserve specific comments on this matter as it progresses through the litigation process.
Christie Estes, General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer
Mr. Casanova was found guilty at trial en banc for impaired driving. Judge Stacy Street as a judge. His lawyer has since appealed the verdict. No result yet. As for the federal lawsuit, I cannot comment on the specifics, as it is currently before the courts. However, I will say that anyone can sue anyone for anything. That doesn’t mean they have a case. We have complete confidence in the sheriff and his department. We are satisfied that they are innocent of any wrongdoing and that Mr. Casanova was treated properly, as are all defendants in Johnson County.
Perry L. Stout, County Attorney
A request for a new trial
Rogers has officially filed a motion for a new trial regarding Juan Carlos Casanova’s multiple convictions, including DUI.
In the motion, he alleges that his client was “seriously wronged and deprived of a fundamental right to due process and a fair trial”.
Rogers says that’s because evidence presented by the state through witnesses called during the bench trial in May 2022 was not provided to him.
The motion states that Mr. Casanova, “is entitled to a new trial as of right because the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office has not fully complied with an order of this honorable court, the perjured statements of Mrs. Williamson and of Officer Bradley Sexton, and the State’s failure to make a full discovery despite his request.
Rogers added that this lawsuit and related court actions are not intended to prove that “all cops are bad.”
Himself the son of a police officer, Rogers says his goal is to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“There are a lot of good people keeping us safe and protecting us. I think for the most part they are good. Are we going to pretend that things happened because of law enforcement? Yes we are. But we’re not saying this is a blanket statement,” Rogers said.
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