Former Inmate Files Class Action Lawsuit Against County

Knoxville, TN (2017-07-12) A former inmate has filed a class-action lawsuit against Sheriff Ronnie Phillips and Scott County, claiming he and others were exposed to and contracted tuberculosis while incarcerated in the Scott County Jail.

On June 1, 2017, former inmate Jesse Perry filed a class-action lawsuit against Sheriff Ronnie Phillips and Scott County claiming the negligence of jail personnel and egregious jail protocols led to him contracting tuberculosis (TB) while he was being held in the Scott County Jail while awaiting trial in 2016.  According to the ten-page complaint filed by Knoxville attorney Ursula Bailey, Perry and other inmates were exposed to the contagion when an inmate carrying the infection was introduced to the general male population.  At that time, the dormitory-style cell where Perry was being held allegedly housed about 40 prisoners.

In the complaint, Perry claims that an unidentified male inmate, referred to in the document only as Inmate X, told him he had TB.  Inmate X, states the document, allegedly shared that information with jail personnel, who allegedly did nothing about it.  Perry further claims that Phillips had established cost-cutting protocols that led to inmates being housed at the jail without being properly screened.

When he was jailed on a probation violation on June 5, 2016, Perry claimed he did not have TB; a claim he said was supported by a clean bill of health he received when released from another correctional institution shortly before being placed in the local Jail.  By the time he was sentenced in mid-September, Perry claimed he was diagnosed with a latent form of the disease, which was found by medical personnel who screened him prior to him being placed in general population at a state penitentiary.

While at the Scott County Jail, Perry claimed that Inmate X coughed a lot. TB is a contagious disease, but is difficult to catch.  The germ grows slowly, meaning a person must typically spend a lot of time around an infected person before contracting the infection.  Transfer of the germ is generally through the air, when the infected person coughs or sneezes.  Because of its slow growth, the germ is generally not transferred via contact, such as a handshake, or eating or drinking after the infected person.

Since contracting the disease, Perry reportedly has undergone nine months of medical treatment for it.  He will also have to be tested annually for the disease.

In his lawsuit, Perry claimed that the Sheriff and County had failed to provide qualified medical personnel to properly screen incoming prisoners for medical conditions, including diseases.  He further claimed that jail officials failed to properly screen inmates before placing them in the general population.  Perry asserts that Inmate X was never screened before being housed in the jail.

Unlike other cases in the past, Perry has filed a class action suit, representing the interest of other inmates that were likewise housed with the infected prisoner.  In his complaint, Perry claims that a least one other inmate had contracted the disease.

Perry is seeking class action certification for his complaint, along with compensatory and punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial.