Lawsuit filed against Clinton County in inmate’s death
Shawn Kitchen, 40, died of kidney infection, sepsis
LOCK HAVEN — A federal lawsuit has been filed against Clinton County and numerous other defendants for medical negligence in the untimely death of a Lock Haven man in the Clinton County Correctional Facility nearly two years ago.
The Law Offices of Timothy P. O’Brien of Pittsburgh, filed the suit on Nov. 11, 2019 on behalf of Debora Kitchen, whose son, Shawn Kitchen, was being detained at the county prison at the time of his death on Dec. 3, 2017.
Kitchen, 40, died from a kidney infection stemming from an easily manageable and treatable urinary tract infection that became septic during his incarceration, according to the complaint.
In the weeks leading up to his death, medical and correctional staff repeatedly ignored his cries for help, failed to provide any medical care and punished, mocked and humiliated him for complaining too much by placing him a restraint chair in a black cage and solitary confinement, according to the complaint.
“Even when Mr. Kitchen fell unconscious after not eating or moving for days and becoming incontinent, medical and correctional staff delayed calling for emergency services. When they eventually did, and after emergency medical personnel arrived, they stated the following:
“This unit was emergency dispatched by the Clinton County 911 system to the above location for a reported unresponsive male. At the time of response, this unit was advised the patient was now in cardiac arrest… The patient was noted to be naked laying on the floor just outside the shower area surrounded in a pool of yellow fluid which smelled of urine. This patient/inmate was located in the administrative segregation unit of the Jail. The staff present in the room stated they were wheeling (via wheelchair) the patient from his cell to the shower. When asked if the patient suffered from a [illegible] or past medical history (for the use of the wheelchair) the nursing staff stated “I don’t know” however, a correctional officer stated “he (the patient) would not walk to the shower.” Staff noted the patient has not showered, ate or drank in two days. The patient was noted to have a very pungent non-showered odor. Staff continued to state when they entered the shower with the patient he became unresponsive then entered in to cardiac arrest. He was brought out in the hall way with CPR started. Staff members denied any recent injury or illness to this patient and stated he advised no complaints prior to the collapse. It was hard to question the staff present or get answers from them. The correctional staff present just repeated “this is not good.” No medical or other paperwork was available at the time of assessment and treatment. One staff member stated they would send “what they had to the Emergency Department.”
According to Alec B. Wright, Esquire, “under such disturbing facts that border on manslaughter, one would think that these defendants would be willing to do what is right by extending even the most insincere of condolences. But that is not the case here. Extensive requests to make this right, and to give Mr. Kitchen’s family closure without court involvement, were deliberately ignored.
“What is left now is to tell the story and vindicate the rights of a beloved father, son, brother and grandfather. To tell the story of the untimely death of one of our fellow citizens, who died tragically through no fault of his own.”
The 29-page complaint states that Kitchen had not been convicted of a crime, but was being detained following a revocation hearing for an alleged probation violation. He became incarcerated on Nov. 21, and complained of back pain while still in intake.
Daily requests were made by Kitchen– who suffered for more than two weeks, crying and screaming with pain and lying on his cell floor soaked in his own urine and unable to move or eat — to be taken to the emergency room at the local hospital, according to the suit.
Interviews with two inmates who were incarcerated with Kitchen and talked about his condition and treatment by medical personnel are also included in the compliant.
On Dec. 3, after Kitchen was put in a wheelchair and taken to the shower because of his body odor, he lost consciousness, and for the first time since his incarceration prison staff called for emergency medical assistance, according to the complaint.
“By that time, the medical and correctional defendants had denied over two dozen requests for medical assistance, Pecht had only physically examined him on one occasion, no blood work or tests had ever been performed and no antibiotics were ever prescribed.
“The delay/or denial of medical care caused it to be too late to save Mr. Kitchen’s life; his sepsis and kidney infection were irreversible,” the complaint reads.
Other defendants in the suit include Wellpath LLC; Dr. Karl Pecht, and licensed practical nurses Holly Barrett, Christal Miller, Cynthia Mann, Ashley Bechdel, Cathy Petty, all of whom were assigned to medically treat and care for Kitchen through Wellpath LLC. Several corrections officers are also named in the suit.
“JURY TRIAL DEMANDED,” is written on the first page of the complaint.
Clinton County Correctional Facility Warden Angela Hoover said Tuesday afternoon that county employees were told by their solicitor to refer any questions to the county’s counsel, Frank J. Lavery of Lavery Law, Harrisburg.
When the law office was called, Lavery’s secretary said he was in court and she would let him know that The Express had called and give him the newspaper’s phone number.