Cobb on hook for Wellstar legal fees in wrongful death suit

File Photo: WellStar Cobb Hospital in Austell. Courtesy of WellStar

File Photo: WellStar Cobb Hospital in Austell. Courtesy of WellStar

UPDATE: Cobb County Commissioners approved a $300,000 payout to Wellstar Health System Tuesday to cover its legal fees after the family of an inmate who died in hospital sued.

Justin Graham, 25, was admitted to the Cobb County jail on May 18, 2006, for driving under the influence.

Several weeks later, on June 5, he was transferred to Wellstar Hospital in Austell with acute cirrhosis of the liver. He died on July 7.

Graham’s family filed a complaint claiming jail and hospital staff failed to provide adequate medical treatment.

The county and the hospital were ultimately cleared of wrongdoing, but the Sheriff Office's contract with Wellstar obligates it to reimburse the health system for legal fees it incurs while defending itself from prisoner injury claims, if it prevails in court.

The BOC approved the reimbursement at its regular meeting Tuesday. The payout comes at a time when the county is struggling to close a $30 million budget gap.

A spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office referred questions to the County Attorney’s Office, which provided court documents.

This isn’t the first time Sheriff Neil Warren has faced legal action over the medical care at the jail.

A 60-year-old man who broke his hip after a guard pushed him to the floor is suing Warren and jail staff for damages. The inmate lay on the floor for an hour as staff tried to pull him to his feet. Finally, he was placed on a gurney and taken to the hospital.

The guard, who was dismissed as a result of the incident, had been the subject of at least 10 prior internal affairs investigations.

That case continues to make its way through the courts.