No settlement reached in two county jail deaths

Steve Garrison

FARMINGTON — Parties failed to a reach an agreement that would have settled a lawsuit brought by relatives of inmates Sharon Jones and William Carter who died last year while they were inmates at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center.

San Juan County Attorney Doug Echols said today the parties were unable to agree on a settlement amount at mediations held Tuesday and Wednesday.

The lawsuit has been on hold since April pending the outcome of the settlement talks, according to Echols, but the wrongful death claims will now continue to trial. Other lawsuits alleging medical negligence are pending.

The parties are expected to report the outcomes of the settlement to a federal judge on Aug. 1, according to court records.

An attorney for the plaintiffs could not be reached for comment. An attorney for San Juan Regional Medical Center, which is a defendant in the case, also did not respond to a request for comment.

William Carter is pictured in an undated photo provided by his brother Charles Carter.

Carter, 57, was found dead in a jail cell at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center on the morning of Feb. 13, 2015, two days after he told his attorney he needed emergency medical assistance for dizziness and trouble breathing.

A death investigation by the San Juan County Sheriff's Office indicated Carter was prescribed an inhaler to treat asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, but the device was not available to Carter during the weeks leading up to his death, according to a police report.

A jail guard also told detectives a nurse had complained to him that Carter faked dizziness and did not need to be in the medical unit, the report states. Another nurse claimed Carter exhibited "attention seeking behavior," according to the report.

A state medical investigator later determined Carter died due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Carter's family filed a lawsuit on June 12, 2015, against the jail and the jail's contracted medical care provider, San Juan Regional Medical Center.

Jones, 50, was found unconscious in the medical wing at the jail on Jan. 5, 2015, and later died at the hospital.

Sharon Jones is pictured in 2012.

An inmate in the medical wing with Jones told detectives from the sheriff's office that Jones had complained of pain throughout the night, and had trouble getting out of bed.

Another inmate, Ashley Thode, told The Daily Times last May that she and other inmates repeatedly requested medical care for Jones, but nurses did not respond.

Attorneys representing Jones' family also claim in their lawsuit that Jones had requested medical care in the weeks leading up to her death, but those requests were ignored.

Jones died of sepsis, according to an autopsy report.

Those lawsuits were joined into one.

A third inmate, Jesus Marquez, died at the detention center of pneumonia on March 3, 2015. Marquez's mother, Olga Salazar, settled her lawsuit against the jail last month for $150,000.

Salazar also settled claims against the hospital, but a hospital spokeswoman said the terms of that settlement are confidential.

More than two dozen other current and former inmates claim medical negligence at the detention center. Those claims are expected to go to trial.

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