Lawsuit alleges wrongful death of jail inmate


The family of a 23-year-old Louisville woman, who died in July while she was an inmate at the Jackson County Jail, has filed a $30 million civil suit against Sheriff Rick Meyer and eight jail staffers.

Attorney Sam Aguiar of Louisville filed the lawsuit Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana on behalf of LaVita McClain, mother of Ta’Neasha Chappell.

Chappell died on the evening of July 16 at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour where she had been taken after becoming ill at the jail in Brownstown the day before, the lawsuit contends.

Besides Meyer, Jail Commander Chris Everhart, Jail Sgt. Josh Clark, jail nurse Ed Rutan, and jail officers Wendy Boshears, Scott Ferguson, Clayton Banister, Mark Reynolds, and Tami Baxter are all being sued for the wrongful death of Chappell.

Ferguson, Boshears, Reynolds, Baxter, Clark, Banister and Rutan also are being sued for gross negligence and deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of Chappell resulting in cruel and unusual punishment, according to the lawsuit.

Meyer and Everhart also are being sued for failing to implement or otherwise enforce policies and procedures to ensure constitutionally adequate access to medical care for Chappell.

In an email Aguiar sent to The Tribune, he said, “While we remain hopeful that the Indiana State Police will hold all of those responsible for Ta’Neasha’s death accountable, we also see substantial violations of Ta’Neasha’s constitutional rights that need to be pursued through civil litigation. The failure of these jail officers to afford Ta’Neasha the most basic and fundamental care caused her to suffer and ultimately die.”

The state police are investigating Chappell’s death.

Aguiar said the filing of the lawsuit allows the family and his legal team to progress toward “critical discovery,” by obtaining surveillance footage and jail record that have not been shared with Chappell’s family.

Since Chappell’s death Aguiar said the family has not heard from the lead detective on the case.

“Thankfully, eyewitness accounts and medical records of Ta’Neasha have painted a picture for us that makes it extremely clear that Ta’Neasha, while fighting for her life, was ignored, criticized and made fun of by jail workers,” Aguiar said. “This is the textbook definition of cruel and unusual punishment in violation of person’s civil rights.”

The lawsuit contends Chappell fell ill in the afternoon of July 15. She had a fever, was vomiting repeatedly and her vomit contained blood. Throughout that night, she continued vomiting and had diarrhea and continued asking for help.

That night, Chappell repeatedly told jail workers she was extremely ill, needed medical attention and needed to be taken to a hospital, according to the lawsuit.

Shortly after midnight, Chappell on July 16, requested help from jail staff through an intercom, according to court records.

A worker responded to her cell by providing her with a bucket for vomiting, according to court records.

Chappell made multiple requests for medical assistance throughout the night, and the lawsuit contends some requests were loud enough that other inmates heard her throughout the jail pod.

Throughout the night and into the morning of July 16, the lawsuit contends jail workers denied Chappell’s request for medical help. The lawsuit also contends that no qualified medical personnel were working within the jail that night.

The lawsuit further contends jail staff accused Chappell of faking her illness multiple times.

On the morning of July 16, Chappell did not report to breakfast. A little before 9 a.m., a jail nurse went to her cell. The nurse also accused Chappell of faking her illness multiple times, but only provided her with a Tylenol, the lawsuit contends.

Chappell had a history of taking an anti-nausea medication and the lawsuit said this was made know to jail staff prior to her becoming sick.

At 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., Chappell continued to plea for help through the intercom, according to court records.

Shortly before 11 a.m., Chappell fell to the floor and inmates within her pod were concerned, according to the lawsuit.

She then went to the common area of the pod in only her underwear. After hitting the call box for help, she laid down on the floor unclothed and covered in her own vomit and feces.

A jail worker eventually assisted her back to her cell. When back at her cell, she kept asking for help on the intercom.

In the early afternoon, a jail worker escorted Chappell to a group holding cell while her jumpsuit was unbuttoned and her chest was exposed.

This worker held the back of her jumpsuit and, at one point, let go and Chappell fell to the ground. Her head hit the ground during the fall, according to the lawsuit.

Chappell was eventually moved by jail staff to a single holding cell. There, she suffered a head injury.

Before Jackson County Emergency Medical personnel were called at around 3 p.m., Chappell was jaundiced, unable to communicate clearly, was unclothed and covered in sweat, had a “decent sized” bruise on her forehead, had yellow eyes and a yellowing on her chest, bile dried to her lips and struggled to stand, according to the lawsuit.

When EMS was called, it had been more 23 hours since Chappell first began vomiting, according to the lawsuit.

Chappell died in the evening at Schneck and her family wasn’t notified of her death until around three hours after she died.

Chappell was booked into the jail May 26 on eight criminal charges stemming from the theft of items from the Polo Ralph Lauren store in Edinburgh. She was being held on a $4,000 bond at the time of her death.

She had been charged in Jackson County with escape while inflicting bodily injury on another person, three counts of resisting law enforcement, leaving the scene of an accident, reckless driving and possession of marijuana. She also faced a theft charge in Bartholomew County.

Her arrest came after a pursuit that started when a state trooper attempted a traffic stop near Seymour.

The pursuit went through three counties and lasted more than a half-hour on Interstate 65. It ended near Exit 7 in Clark County when Chappell collided with an Indiana State Police commercial motor vehicle, police said. More than $3,000 in suspected stolen items were located in Chappell’s vehicle after the crash, police said.

The Jackson County Jail did not provide a comment on the lawsuit at press time.

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