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County responds to Bever suit

Attorney Jeff Ward filed a motion earlier this month for partial dismissal of claims in the $20 million lawsuit filed by the mother of Aaron Michael Bever who hanged himself in the Washington County Detention Center last year.
The complaint filed by plaintiff Lisa White in June alleges Washington County, Sheriff Ed Graybeal and the deputies and/or corrections officers who were in a position to observe Bever during his incarceration demonstrated deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of Bever, in violation of his rights under the eighth and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
In his motion for dismissal of the state law claims, Ward argues that Washington County, as a governmental entity, is immune from suit unless that immunity has been lifted for negligent acts or omissions of its employees with certain exceptions. “However, when immunity is lifted for negligent acts or omissions of its employees, the employees themselves are entitled to immunity pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated 29-20-310(b),” the motion states.
Should the immunity be removed, Ward writes, any claims for damages must be brought in strict compliance with the terms of the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act, which establishes that jurisdiction for claims against a governmental entity under the Act resides with Tennessee’s Circuit Courts.
Ward requests the Federal Court decline supplemental jurisdiction over the plaintiff’s state law claims and dismiss those claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
In addition, Ward asserts the claims against Sheriff Ed Graybeal in his official capacity should be dismissed because “inclusion of a defendant by name in his official capacity is redundant inasmuch as the plaintiff has also sued Washington County.”
In his answer to the complaint, Ward indicates the defendants deny the allegations that they were aware that Bever had psychological issues, including having previously threatened suicide.
On June 16, 2013, Bever was found in his jail cell where he had suffered life-ending injuries as the result of hanging himself by a bed sheet and/or pants. Bever was resuscitated and taken to the Johnson City Medical Center Emergency Department where he died the next day.
Allegations the defendants were negligent in handling the supervision, custody care and treatment of Bever, and that the failure to exercise such care proximately and directly caused him harm, also are denied.
As an alternative affirmative defense, the answer states “the defendants assert the doctrine of modified comparative fault as to the plaintiff’s decedent to the extent that it is determined that Bever was at fault for the events leading to his death and assert that such fault equals or totals more than 50 percent of the fault, thereby barring the plaintiff from any recovery for a claim based upon negligence.”
Ward said he will likely file for summary judgment in the near future regarding the claims that Bever’s constitutional rights were violated during his time as an inmate in the Detention Center. An agreement to grant summary judgement would prevent the case from going to trial.