Union County is being sued by the estate of Eusebio Castillo Rodriguez, who died at 42 after being in the county jail.
According to a lawsuit filed on Friday, Rodriguez, who was survived by three children and his partner, their mother, did not receive sufficient medical care after falling ill at the jail, resulting in his death.
Named as defendants in the suit are Union County; the Association of Arkansas Counties Risk Management Fund; Turn Key Health Clinics, LLC and Turn Key Health Medical Arkansas, PLLC, the health care providers for the Union County jail; Community Health Systems Professional Services Corporation AKA Medical Center of South Arkansas; and South Arkansas Emergency Physicians LLP.
Turn Key, which has provided medical services at the county jail since June, 2021, is also being sued by a family whose relative died in the Sebastian County jail in 2021. Turn Key also provided health care services at that jail.
Amanda Castillo, one of Rodriguez's surviving children, and Cary Rios, Castillo's mother and Rodriguez's partner, are listed as co-administratrices of Rodriguez's estate.
According to the suit, Rodriquez was arrested on April 27 on charges of driving while intoxicated, driving with a suspended license and having an open container of alcohol in his vehicle. He was released from county custody the same day, to his daughter, Castillo.
He returned for court on June 6, but since a Spanish-language interpreter was not available that day, his hearing was reset for June 8, the suit states.
Judge Jack Barker suspended one-year and 10-day sentences for Rodriguez's charges at the June 8 hearing. However, a statement Rodriguez made in court was allegedly misinterpreted, causing Barker to "reinstate the previously suspended ten-day jail sentence for driving without a license," according to the suit.
Rodriguez was taken into county custody at that point, the suit states. According to the suit, Rodriguez's daughter informed jail staff about medical conditions her father suffered from, including diabetes, hypertension and high-blood pressure and brought his medications to the jail.
On June 10, Rodriguez's family visited him via video call, where they saw he was "shaking severely, appeared to be disoriented, and displayed several other symptoms of alcohol withdrawal," according to the suit. They made a report to the Union County sheriff's office about their concerns for his health at that time, the suit says.
On June 12, Rodriguez was moved to a solitary cell "because he was moaning and making it difficult for other inmates to sleep," the suit claims. That night, Rodriguez was captured on a jail officer's body camera hunched over, shirtless in his cell.
The following morning, "Rodriguez was found half-naked, incoherent, and trembling severely while lying face down on the floor of his solitary cell," according to the suit. When a Turn Key nurse arrived at the jail for work more than two hours later, guards "transported Rodriguez's unconscious body to the nurse's station and back to the booking cell."
In the meantime, jail administrator Capt. Richard Mitcham procured Barker's signature to release Rodriguez from jail custody. The suit alleges he did so "in order to avoid being held liable for the costs of Rodriguez's medical treatment."
Rodriguez was subsequently transported to Medical Center of South Arkansas. "At no point was Rodriguez's family informed of his medical emergency," the suit claims, going on to state that it took three separate calls and approximately four hours for the family to be informed that he had been transported to the hospital.
By the time Rodriguez's family arrived at the hospital, he was being transported via medevac to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, according to the suit.
"Due to the fact that Rodriguez did not have health insurance, the emergency staff at Medical Center of South Arkansas did not perform any costly or necessary lifesaving procedures, and, instead, did the bare minimum required to prevent Rodriguez from dying while in their care until they could pass him off to UAMS," the suit claims.
Rodriguez remained in critical care at UAMS through June 22, all the while in a "near-vegetative state" and experiencing "multiple and painful cardiac arrests – which led to his eventual death," according to the suit.
The suit also alleged that "Union County has impeded Rodriguez's family from obtaining his complete post-mortem records from the Arkansas State Medical Examiner's autopsy as well as other reports, and giving them the simple human dignity of knowing what happened to their loved one."
The suit claims Turn Key "was motivated by constitutionally impermissible profit-driven reasons" in not providing adequate care to Rodriguez, and that Medical Center of South Arkansas "was deficient to such an extreme degree that the discharge documents produced by the facility state that Rodriguez 'was oriented and able to independently bath himself with little or no assistance,' despite the fact that he was air transported away from that facility in a near vegetative state."
The plaintiffs in the suit, Rodriguez's estate and its administrators, claim that his 14th Amendment rights were violated, along with state laws related to wrongful death and medical malpractice. They are seeking compensatory and punitive damages, attorneys' fees and "any such other relief that" the United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas "deems just and equitable."
They are also seeking a jury trial for the case.
The News-Times tried to contact Castillo, Rodriguez's daughter, but was unable to by press time Sunday.
County Judge Mike Loftin said he hadn't yet been served with the suit on Friday afternoon. Sheriff Ricky Roberts said it's important to him that inmates in the county jail are treated with respect.
"I want to assure the citizens of Union County that I take my job seriously. I know these inmates back here are somebody's son, daughter, sister, brother, mother, father – I'm going to treat them with the utmost respect, like they were my own family member," he said. "It's not the Holiday Inn or Burger King – (where) everybody gets it their way – but we're tasked with a job and we do what we need to do."
Roberts said he's confident in the Turn Key staff at the county jail and has not considered changing the jail's medical care providers.
"Turn Key has done an excellent job. They see out inmates on a daily basis and they're doing a tremendous job," he said.
Alexis Jacobs-Jones, marketing director at Medical Center of South Arkansas, said it's not the hospital's practice to comment on litigation. A message seeking comment from Turn Key was not answered by press time Sunday.