HUNTSVILLE — A former inmate of the Scott County Jail who claimed to have contracted tuberculosis during his time at the facility has filed a class-action lawsuit against Scott County, claiming that he and other inmates were exposed to the disease while incarcerated there.
Jesse Perry filed the lawsuit last month, but it only came to light last week. In it, Perry names Scott County and Sheriff Ronnie Phillips as defendants, and claims that the jail’s health screening protocols jeopardized his health.
The 10-page lawsuit was filed by Knoxville attorney Ursula Bailey, who is representing Perry. The class-action nature of the filing allows other plaintiffs to join the lawsuit against the county.
Perry claims that he was housed with 40 other prisoners in the jail’s general population. During that time, he alleges, another inmate told him that he had tuberculosis.
The inmate is not identified in the lawsuit, and is referenced only as Inmate X. Allegedly, that inmate told corrections officers that he had tuberculosis, but the information was ignored. Perry claims that the Sheriff’s Department allowed inmates to be booked at the jail without proper health screenings as a cost-saving measure.
Perry, who was jailed as he awaited trial for violating the terms of his probation, claims that he was healthy when he was booked into the jail on June 5, 2016, but was diagnosed with tuberculosis by the time he was moved from the jail three months later. He was transferred to a penitentiary after his sentencing in trial court.
Perry claims to have undergone treatment for tuberculosis for nine months. He alleged that Inmate X coughed frequently while the two were housed together at the jail, and claims that at least one other inmate also contracted the disease while being incarcerated at the jail.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Knoxville, and seeks both compensatory and punitive damages.
Tuberculosis is an infectious disease that primarily affects the lungs. Latent forms of the disease, which make up the bulk of infections, like Perry’s, do not cause symptoms. However, about 10 percent of latent tuberculosis infections progress to active tuberculosis, which can be fatal if left untreated.
Symptoms of tuberculosis include chronic coughing, fever, night sweats and weight loss. The disease is spread through the air. More than one-third of the world’s population is infected with tuberculosis, but the majority of those cases are in developing countries, where as many as four out of every five people are infected.