MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — The family of a woman who died two years ago after falling ill at the Muskegon County Jail filed a federal lawsuit on Thursday, alleging that those who were supposed to care for her ignored her pleas for help.
An attorney for the family of Tiffany Davis, 39, filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids against the county, Sheriff Michael Poulin, the company that provided medical care, guards and medical staff.
“Defendants caused the death of Tiffany Davis by continuously violating her constitutional rights,” according to the lawsuit filed by attorney Marcel Benavides.
He’s the same attorney who filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the family of Paul Bulthouse, who died less than a year earlier at the jail. That led to a $2.4 million settlement between Muskegon County and Bulthouse’s family.
The Bulthouse lawsuit also led to an undisclosed settlement with Wellpath, the now former medical provider.
Shortly after Davis’s death, her cellmate told Target 8 she had begged a jail nurse to send Davis to the hospital on Feb. 18, 2020, for symptoms that started with a headache then led to vomiting and seizures.
Davis’s mother also told Target 8 she asked the jail that day to send her to the hospital.
The jail didn’t call for an ambulance until the next afternoon, records show.
Davis, who had a history of minor crimes and was in jail on a probation violation, was pronounced brain dead two days later at the hospital. She was declared dead on Feb. 24.
An autopsy report obtained by Target 8 shows the 39-year-old mother of three died of multiple brain hemorrhages brought on by an infection she had suffered for days while locked up.
“Basically an infection. She had sepsis,” the family’s attorney told Target 8.
“Tiffany Davis’ meningitis and sepsis went untreated by Defendant Deputies and Defendant Medical Personnel for nearly 36 hours,” the lawsuit alleges. “Tiffany died a slow death as a result of not being medically cared for due to the deliberate indifference to her serious medical needs by the Defendant Deputies and Defendant Medical Personnel as they did nothing to help her. Tiffany Davis’ death was completely and utterly preventable but for the conduct of Defendants.”
The lawsuit also alleges that the sheriff’s office and Wellpath tried to cover up details of the death, leading to an investigation that found no wrongdoing.
Davis’s death came less than a year after 39-year-old Paul Bulthouse died in jail after suffering repeated seizures in a close-observation cell.
A Target 8 investigation into that case led to criminal charges, which are still pending against four jail guards.
Among the jail guards named in the new lawsuit is Jamal Lane, who also faces criminal charges in the Bulthouse death.
At the time of the deaths of Davis and Bulthouse, Tennessee-based Wellpath provided care at the jail under a five-year $6.7 million contract. The county has since hired another provider.
A spokeswoman for Wellpath said the company would not comment, citing pending litigation.
The sheriff responded in an email to Target 8: “This is the first I have heard of a lawsuit being filed and have not received any notice at this point. As you are aware, a request was made with full cooperation given to an independent investigation from the Michigan Sheriff’s Association, Mission Team.”