Jail inmate suit over medical care dies quiet death

A much-publicized case alleging shoddy medical care at Butte County Jail died not with a bang, but with a whimper early this month.

The suit, filed in May by four jail inmates, was dismissed “with prejudice,” meaning that the plaintiffs can’t appeal the ruling or try to file the case again. Superior Court Judge Steven Howell agreed with Butte County lawyers in his Jan. 8 dismissal, declaring that the case lacked both merit and necessary proof.

Media coverage of the suit’s dismissal was a far cry from that of its filing. Back then, the suit was front-page, banner headline material for just about every newspaper in the county.

Inmates Bill Price, Daniel McIntyre, Mickey Glisson and Brad Partlow filed the hand-written suit, alleging, among other things, that they were denied referrals to medical specialists for the treatment of long-standing health problems while at Butte County Jail, sometimes given rotten fruit in their meals, deprived of counseling and court-required time outdoors, and retaliated against when they complained of these offenses.

They were asking for damages amounting to $350,000 from each of 10 named defendants, including Sheriff Scott Mackenzie, two correctional officers and the five members of the Board of Supervisors. The inmates also wanted access to medical specialists while incarcerated—at the county’s expense—and for the jail to revamp the way correctional officers review inmate grievances.

Price, who wrote much of the suit himself, was one of the inmates who in 1986 successfully sued Butte County Jail over many of the same grievances. That suit resulted in a consent degree requiring some outside monitoring by an outside source, provided by two local lawyers.

Attorney Greg Einhorn, who represented the county in the suit, said that the dismissal seemed to trickle in over a matter of months.

“Nothing of substance ever really happened with this case,” he said. “The charges were being dismissed a little at a time, starting last summer.”

He added that the final dismissal seemed to have caused barely a ripple at the county.

"It’s really too bad when there’s a huge stir about the filing of a case like this, and then when it’s dismissed, no one really notices," Einhorn said. "But that’s the way it happens."