Inmate sues sheriff’s office, health department, county commissioners for TB exposure

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By Caroline Curran, Reporter

A Columbus County man who was an inmate at the Brunswick County Detention Center is suing the sheriff’s office, county health department and county commissioners for negligence for what he claims was not testing an inmate who had TB at the time he was booked at the detention center.

According to the lawsuit filed June 29 in Brunswick County Superior Court, Floyd Baldwin, who was booked at the detention center in November 2008, claims Omar Morales was not given a TB test when he was booked at the jail as required by law.

Baldwin and Morales were “commingled in the same cell block during the relevant period of time described in this complaint,” the suit states.

“In December 2008 and for the next several months, inmate Omar Morales continually and repeatedly exhibited signs and symptoms of serious illness, including constant cough, loss of appetite, vomiting and coughing up of blood (that began in April),” the suit states.

“In spite of repeated efforts on the part of inmate Omar Morales to seek medical attention, the defendants consistently and repeatedly refused to acknowledge the seriousness of his condition. Subsequently, it was found that inmate Omar Morales had contracted the tuberculosis infection and required serious medical attention.”

According to the lawsuit, Baldwin tested positive for the TB infection in July 2009 and has been under medical and treatment since that time.

“The defendants have failed to comply with the laws, rules and common law of North Carolina, including the North Carolina Administrative Code in failing to protect the plaintiff from becoming contaminated with the TB virus, causing his TB infection and subsequent medical problems related to the infection, which at this time are not known if full but will be presented at trial,” the lawsuit states.

Baldwin is seeking a jury trial and damages in excess of $10,000 for “mental pain and anguish, emotional trauma, physical injury, permanent physical injury, future medical expenses and other injuries as will be shown at trial.”

The lawsuit also names Southern Health Partners and Western Surety Co. as defendants in the suit.

Brunswick County Attorney Huey Marshall declined to comment on pending litigation, but said he had not yet been served with the lawsuit. When the county is served, Marshall with have 30 days to file an answer in superior court.