A woman claims in a federal lawsuit that medical staff at a regional jail failed to prevent her daughter from committing suicide by hanging in March.
Kacey Dawn Horn, 28, died March 1 at the Rappahannock-Shendandoah-Warren Regional Jail after repeated attempts at self-harm, according to a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia on Sept. 30.
Horn’s mother and administrator of her estate, Brandi Funkhouser, demands a jury trial and seeks $5 million in damages from the seven defendants identified in the complaint as medical professionals assigned to care and treat her daughter. Richmond attorney Seth R. Carroll and Brewster S. Rawls represent Funkhouser and filed the wrongful death lawsuit on her behalf.
Defendants at the time of Horn’s death worked for the regional jail, Western State Hospital in Staunton or Northwestern Community Services Board in Front Royal. Online court records show subpoenas were issued to the defendants on Friday.
Carroll said by phone on Monday that he expects to add more defendants in the lawsuit as he identifies other individuals who were involved in Horn’s care.
The plaintiff claims that the defendants violated Horn’s federal rights under the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and state law by committing gross negligence.
Horn died “as a result of the wrongful and unconstitutional acts of Defendants,” the complaint states.
The complaint identifies the following defendants as responsible for Horn’s care and treatment in the two weeks leading up to her death: Western State Hospital attending psychiatrist Caroline S. Bill; social worker Simon Jilg; and psychiatrist Eugene Foris Simopoulos, who wrote comprehensive treatment plans and prescribed her medications. The complaint names jail medical staff employees Kaitlyn Brown and Michelle Roland, and clinical staff worker Christine Walker as defendants responsible for Horn’s care and treatment. Caylyn Arbogast, also a defendant, worked as the liaison at the Northwestern Community Services Board responsible for coordinating Horn’s admission to, and discharge from Western State Hospital.
The first count of the complaint accuses the RSW defendants of deliberate indifference to serious medical needs in violation of Horn’s constitutional rights. Despite their knowledge of Horn’s risk to self harm, each RSW defendant failed to do anything upon her return from treatment at Western State Hospital to ensure her mental health needs were monitored or that any precautions were in place to reduce her high risk for self harm, the complaint states. As a result of the RSW defendants’ “deliberate indifference,” medical staff did not check on Horn for 19 hours until they found her unresponsive in her cell, according to the complaint.
The second count accuses Arbogast and the Western State Hospital defendants of gross negligence by failing to create a “proper and medically adequate transition plan for addressing Ms. Horn’s mental health needs” following her release from the hospital, the complaint states. The complaint cites other failures on the part of the Western State defendants that caused Horn’s death.
The complaint lays out a timeline of events from Horn’s incarceration on Feb. 14 to her death two weeks later. In the last two weeks of her life, Horn attempted self-harm at least four times while incarcerated at the jail after she disclosed to staff during her initial screening that she had tried to commit suicide by hanging several months earlier, according to the complaint. Horn also disclosed that she suffered from bipolar disorder and that she had been under the care of a mental health professional, the complaint states.
Horn attempted to self-harm several times while in jail and, as a result, medical staff found that she met the criteria for a temporary detention order and transferred her to Western State Hospital in Staunton on Feb. 17, according to the complaint. Horn underwent treatment in the hospital until her discharge Feb. 28. She also tested positive for COVID-19 at her admission to the hospital. During her time in the hospital, Horn admitted experiencing suicidal ideation daily and hallucinations, according to the complaint. Other times, Horn denied experiencing these symptoms. Hospital staff treated Horn with several psychotropic medications, having diagnosed her initially with borderline personality disorder and an opioid use disorder, with schizophrenia as a secondary diagnosis, the complaint states.
“Despite her myriad of symptoms, the Western State Defendants planned to discharge Ms. Horn back to jail once her COVID quarantine had lifted,” the complaint states.
Horn returned to the jail on Feb. 28. The plaintiff claims that on several occasions, jail medical staff indicated “no change” in Horn’s medical condition once she returned from the hospital, despite knowing she tried to commit suicide at least four times in 36 hours prior to hospitalization.
“Inexplicably, however, Ms. Horn received no additional assessment, care or observation upon her return (to jail),” the complaint states.
Jail staff discovered Horn the morning after, at approximately 11:32 a.m., in her cell, unresponsive and without a pulse, with ligature marks around her neck as a result of hanging, the complaint states. Horn’s death certificate lists hanging as the immediate cause of death and 12:43 p.m. March 1, 2022, as the time and date of death, complaint states.