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Gregg County rebuffs claims in jail death lawsuit

By Robyn Claridy rclaridy@news-journal.com
July 13, 2011 at 11 p.m.

Gregg County is neither responsible for the December death of a jail inmate nor should it be required to compensate the woman's family for claims regarding her death, the county argues in a legal filing.

Gregg County responded to an 11-page lawsuit filed against it by the family of Amy Lynn Cowling, 33, who died while in jail custody.

The civil lawsuit was filed jointly by Gilmer attorney Jarom Tefteller, who represents Cowling's mother, and Tyler attorney Jimmy Negem, who represents her three children.

The lawsuit alleges Cowling's constitutional rights were violated and Gregg County failed to provide her adequate medical care.

In the response filed June 29, Gregg County denies most of the allegations and claims made in the lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas in Marshall. Tyler attorney Robert Davis represents the county and Sheriff Maxey Cerliano.

In the response, the county denied Cowling's family members are "entitled to any relief whatsoever as a result of their claims."

The county also argued that attorneys for Cowling's family failed to notify the county about the lawsuit before it was filed - as required by law. Additionally, the county "asserts that Plaintiffs' own actions were the sole cause of their injury, if any," and "There was no deliberate indifference in adopting the policies, customs or practices of Gregg County."

Cowling was pronounced dead Dec. 29 at Good Shepherd Medical Center after being found unresponsive in a separation cell at the jail. Jail officials have said Cowling was denied prescribed drugs - which family members said were in her purse at the jail - because that medication was not on the jail's approved medication list.

A Tyler pathologist in March ruled the official cause of death was "probable" seizure due to methadone and Xanax withdrawal.

A second pathologist's opinion was sought by Justice of the Peace B.H. Jameson, who said he wasn't happy with the cause of Cowling's death being ruled probable. That left the manner of death up to him to determine. Jameson said he wanted a more definite answer.

The second opinion, by a Tarrant County pathologist, resulted in Jameson ruling Cowling's death as "undetermined" and closing the books on the case.

The Cowling family's lawsuit claims Gregg County officials failed to provide proper medical treatment "by failing to protect her and through indifference to her medical needs." It also claims the county ignored Cowling's constitutional rights and failed to implement the policies, procedures and practices "necessary to provide constitutionally adequate medical services to Amy (Cowling) during her incarceration in the Gregg County Jail."

The county's response said it complied with all state and federal standards, and there were no constitutional violations.



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