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Family Member Sues Hospital, Knoxville Police, and Others After 60-Year-Old Woman Was Forced to Leave the Hospital and Later Died

By Nadia El-Yaouti | Posted on February 8, 2024


Photo Source: WJAR via WCYB

The son of 60-year-old Lisa Edwards has filed a federal lawsuit against Knoxville police officers, security guards, medical providers, and others after his mom was forced to leave a hospital when she showed up seeking medical care and died the next day.

On February 4, 2023, Edwards was flying from Rhode Island to Tennessee when she became ill. She was taken to Blount Memorial Hospital but was discharged on the same day. On February 5th, she came to Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center in Knoxville seeking additional medical care, but hospital officials told her that she had to leave. When she refused to leave because of claims that she was having a medical emergency, she was escorted out with the assistance of Knoxville police officers. The ordeal to escort her from the hospital would last roughly 25 minutes as documented on police body cam footage.

Despite her pleas to Knoxville officers about her declining health, the officers struggled to get Edwards out of her wheelchair and into the police cruiser. Edwards maintained that she could not leave the hospital because she previously suffered a stroke and could not walk due to her shattered ankle.

Despite her pleas that she needed an inhaler and was having a medical emergency, she was eventually put in the police cruiser and taken toward the Roger D. Wilson Detention Facility. On the way to the facility, an officer allegedly told her that she needed to “grow up” and that she was “fine.”

The lawsuit includes other disturbing allegations, including during Edward’s medical emergency, one officer pulled her by the head and said that he “didn’t know if she’s faking it or what, but she’s not answering.” Additionally, during transport to the detention facility, the officer pulled over to perform a traffic stop on another vehicle while Edwards continued to struggle to breathe in the back seat. Edwards' responses continued to become weaker and incoherent until she eventually fell unconscious.

When Edwards stopped communicating with the officers, she was taken back to Fort Sanders where she would suffer additional episodes of cardiac arrest and a stroke. Her condition continued to worsen until she passed away the next day.

The lawsuit maintains that Edwards’ death was completely preventable. “This was an emergency medical condition that began and worsened on hospital property and that was unequivocally preventable and treatable,” the complaint reads.

A medical examiner's report had initially said that Edwards’ cause of death was a stroke and not due to the actions of Knoxville police officers. However, the lawsuit maintains that the medical examiner did not take into account that Knoxville police officers denied Edwards the care that she was pleading for. Instead, the officers waited an hour to give her medical care even though they visibly observed her worsening physical condition. The complaint goes on to allege that the respiratory distress she experienced while under the officer's care caused her “extreme emotional and physical distress,” all of which would lead to her death.

The lawsuit goes on to say that the “misleading report” prompted Knox County District Attorney Charme Allen to decline to file criminal charges against the responding officers.

The lawsuit asserts a range of violations against the named defendants who include responding Knoxville police officers, the City of Knoxville, Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center and its owner Covenant Health, and security guards employed by Shield and Buckler Security.

Among the 18 claims made in the lawsuit are violations of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act. Passed in 1986, this law requires all Medicare-participating hospitals that offer emergency services to provide medical care regardless of a patient's ability to pay.

The lawsuit also accuses the Knoxville officers of violating Edwards' Fourth Amendment rights by falsely arresting her, deliberate indifference to serious medical needs, violations of Edwards’ Fourth Amendment right by failing to intervene, a range of violations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and a host of other violations.

The lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages of the type recoverable in a wrongful death lawsuit, as well as a trial by jury, attorneys fees, and other costs.

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