Attorneys argue over medical oversight at jail

Steve Garrison
San Juan County Adult Detention Center as seen in April in Farmington.

FARMINGTON — San Juan County Adult Detention Center officials have rejected arguments by inmates' attorneys that a court-appointed doctor should provide medical oversight at the jail.

Attorney Christian Hatfield requested a court-appointed doctor in late September as part of his law firm's ongoing lawsuit against the detention center and its current and former medical providers.

Hatfield argued in the motion for injunction filed Sept. 28 that three inmates at the facility — Paul Matamoros, Christopher Yarnell and James Dominguez — continued to receive negligent treatment at the detention center after the lawsuit was filed.

Ron Childress, attorney for the detention center, argued in his response filed Oct. 26 that Yarnell and Dominguez did not have standing to request an injunction and that Matamoros has received appropriate medical treatment for numerous complaints.

Neither attorney responded Friday to a request for comment.

The Tucker, Burns, Yoder and Hatfield Law Firm is representing 28 current and former inmates who claim they received negligent medical care while incarcerated at the county's detention center. The law firm is also representing the families of three inmates who died at the detention center in the first three months of this year.

The claims were consolidated into a single federal lawsuit on Aug. 14.

Hatfield states in the Sept. 28 motion that Matamoros has developed a severe rash on his groin, which has left his genitals "necrotic-appearing" and covered in festering wounds. Matamoros was transported to San Juan County Regional Medical Center on Aug. 28, according to the motion, but he was not tested for serious, life-threatening illnesses, such as MRSA.

Hatfield claims Yarnell was forced to take medication that was not prescribed to him, which caused him to lose consciousness and strike his head. Yarnell was transported to the hospital and the medication was flushed from his system, the motion states.

Dominguez had toes and part of his foot amputated before being taken into custody due to issues related to diabetes, the motion states. While incarcerated, Dominguez had to wait several days to receive antibiotics and was not allowed to change the dressings on his feet regularly, resulting in infection, according to the motion.

Photos of the injuries suffered by Matamoros and Dominguez were submitted as evidence with the motion. The inmates also provided affidavits in support of the motion.

Childress argued in the Oct. 26 response that Yarnell was not a plaintiff in the lawsuit, and therefore did not have standing to seek redress. He further argued that since Dominguez was no longer incarcerated, he did not need the oversight provided by a court-appointed doctor.

Childress claims in his response that Matamoros visited the hospital on Sept. 24 and denied that he had an infection on his genitals during that visit.

Matamoros filed 17 medical request forms between July 1 and Aug. 31, for dietary issues, nail fungus complaints, headaches, back pain, constipation, surgery requests and spider bites, Childress states.

Medical staff at the jail responded to all the complaints appropriately, Childress states. Matamoros' medical chart was submitted as evidence but it was sealed.

"Mr. Matamoros' medical records show that he is not in danger of imminent death from any medical conditions or treatments that he has or will receive," the motion states. "While there were three deaths at the SJCDC in the first few months of 2015, there is no evidence that these deaths were the result of any systemic constitutionally inadequate medical treatment."

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.