Tyrique Tookes was in the Fulton County Detention Center, being held on bond, in May 2019. After complaining of chest pain over a 2-week period, the 18-year-old Tookes was found dead in his cell. The family has filed a lawsuit against the detention center’s healthcare provider, saying that negligence caused Tookes’ death.
Tookes was taken into custody in March 2019 on charges of theft. He had not faced trial, and therefore not convicted of anything, as he was held on an $8,000 bond.
“He called and complained to me about headaches and chest pains”, said Tookes’ mother Kwitessa. “I asked the people there…to take him to Grady Hospital… They ignored me, they ignored my son.”
Tookes died from what the coroner’s office determined was an aortic aneurysm—a bulge in an artery that connects to the heart.
NaphCare is the healthcare company that is paid $20 million annually to provide medical services to the Fulton County prison population. “Fulton County Jail has had a history of difficulty providing competent and reasonable care,” alleged Jane Lamberti, an attorney for the Tookes family. “He (Tookes) should have been taken to the emergency room immediately.” Instead, Lamberti noted, Tookes’ condition was dismissed as indigestion or heartburn.
Another one of the Tookes’ attorneys, Mawuli Davis, alleged that “It’s more profitable (for NaphCare) to keep an inmate who is in pain and agony in jail. His mother’s voice was not heard…his voice was not heard.”
Neither the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, which oversees the detention center, nor NaphCare have had public comment on the lawsuit. Investigations, both civil and criminal, have been launched.
As with any wrongful death lawsuit, the Tookes family will have to demonstrate that NaphCare failed to exercise the care that a reasonable person would have made in the same situation.
Lamberti speaks to this when she says that all Tookes needed was a chest X-Ray and that the death was easily preventable. Lamberti and Davis will seek to prove that ordering this X-Ray was the reasonable path to take. If this case goes to trial, the defense will need to show that giving Tookes an antacid and warm compresses was, in fact, the reasonable approach.
As evidence is presented, the defense will have up to 11 medical professionals needing to defend their decision-making in the Tookes’ case and demonstrate that it was within medical industry standards.
The plaintiffs will be able to point to both the repeated pleas of Tookes’ for relief, but also the persistent phone calls that came from his mother insisting that her son needed to go to the emergency room.
The loss of Tyrique Tookes was a tragedy. The court faces the unenviable task of deciding who—if anyone—is to blame.