Harrison County

Coast inmate ‘pleaded’ for seizure meds but was denied. Now he’s blind in one eye, lawsuit says

Matthew Roberts
Matthew Roberts Harrison County Adult Detention Center

A Harrison County man claims he was blinded in one eye because medical staff at the jail refused to provide him seizure medicine.

Matthew Roberts, 41, is suing the county, the city of D’Iberville and the county jail’s former contractor, Correctional Medical Associates Inc., in U.S. District Court in Gulfport for actual and punitive damages.

The lawsuit, filed by Matthew Eichelberger of Jackson, says Roberts was jailed Oct. 11, 2015, and held for failure to pay fines in the city of D’Iberville. CMA was aware after a medical screening that Roberts was disabled and needed medicine to control his seizures, the lawsuit says.

“Roberts continuously and repeatedly pleaded for his seizure medication . . . but the defendants persistently refused,” the lawsuit says. “Roberts pleaded to be taken to the emergency room and/or a physician or primary care provider to prescribe and provide necessary seizure medication, and was refused each and every time . . . ”

Four days after he was jailed, the lawsuit says, Roberts suffered a major grand mal seizure, blacked out, fell and had convulsions. His head hit the floor, injuring his left eye. The lawsuit says Roberts lost the vision in his left eye, suffered numbness on that side of his face and grew depressed over his condition.

City Attorney Gerald Blessey says steps are in place so people will not go to jail for unpaid fines.

The lawsuit accuses Harrison County, CMA and D’Iberville of violating Roberts’ civil rights by depriving him of medical care. It also says Harrison County and D’Iberville were at the time running what amounted to an “illegal debtors’ prison” by keeping him in jail over unpaid fines.

Roberts is asking for a jury trial. The lawsuit represents only one side of the case. D’Iberville, Harrison County and CMA have not yet responded to the accusations.

CMA, based in Atlanta, is no longer the county’s contractor for medical services. The current contractor is Birmingham-based Quality Correctional Health Care. Melvin Brisolara was sheriff at the time of the incident, but the sheriff’s department is not named in the lawsuit.

Anita Lee can be reached at 228-896-2331 or @CAnitaLee1
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