Originally created 04/09/03

Paralyzed man sues over care in jail



A second paralyzed man has filed suit alleging that conditions at the Richmond County jail endangered his health.

The Superior Court lawsuit, filed on behalf of Roderick T. Harvey's estate against the city, Sheriff Ronnie Strength and several officers, also contends the Vietnam War veteran was falsely arrested and jailed on a charge of theft by receiving stolen property.

Mr. Harvey alleges in his lawsuit that he had moved to a rental house on Mount Auburn Street to be near the spinal-cord unit at the Augusta Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers. He had been hospitalized from September 1999 to Jan. 12, 2000, according to his lawsuit.

The morning of Jan. 28, 2000, the suit states, Mr. Harvey was in his carport when he saw a young man run up the street and head toward his back yard with police officers in pursuit. Officers questioned Mr. Harvey and insisted he had to know about drug dealing in the neighborhood and about vehicles believed to have been stolen and found stripped behind his home, according to the lawsuit.

Mr. Harvey explained that he had only recently rented the house after getting out of the hospital and that he was unable to reach the back yard in his wheelchair. He also told an officer that he had done two tours of duty in Vietnam while the officer was still in diapers, the lawsuit says. Mr. Harvey was arrested.

At the jail, according to the lawsuit, Mr. Harvey told officers and a nurse that he needed his medicine, a special mattress and a hospital-type bed or rails to prevent bedsores. Three days later, the lawsuit continues, Mr. Harvey repeated his needs to Dr. Siroos Ighani, who, along with the nurse, worked for Prison Health Services.

Mr. Harvey's lawsuit alleges he developed bedsores that became oozing open wounds as the flesh began to rot. The charge against Mr. Harvey was dismissed March 20, 2000, according to the lawsuit.

The city and Prison Health Services have until the end of the month to respond to the allegations.

Similar allegations were brought in February 2002 by Lewis E. Covar Jr., who was taken to the jail that Feb. 17 after a judge ruled he had violated probation. Mr. Covar, paralyzed from the neck down for 34 years, spent only a few days at the jail, but by the time he was transferred to a state prison facility, he had to be hospitalized.

Mr. Covar filed suit against the city, Prison Health Services and Dr. Ighani. Although the city and the medical company denied wrongdoing or liability, the lawsuit was settled for an undisclosed amount of money in December.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or shodson@augustachronicle.com.