Former inmate sues Yellowstone County over cancer

The Associated PressJuly 15, 2014 

— A former Yellowstone County jail inmate is suing the county alleging his throat cancer went undiagnosed for nearly a year despite his numerous complaints about pain and a lump in his throat.

Fred Everett Miller, 50, was diagnosed in September 2010 after he had been transferred to a jail in Missoula, The Billings Gazette (http://bit.ly/W7r42L ) reported.

Miller lost about 100 pounds while undergoing radiation and chemotherapy. He is unable to eat solid food and has a permanent feeding tube, said his attorney, Alex Rate of Livingston.

Miller was the victim of negligence, medical malpractice, cruel and unusual punishment and his "right to individual dignity" was violated, said the lawsuit, which was initially filed in September 2012. Rate said an amended lawsuit was filed in December 2013. District Judge Michael Moses recently set an October 2015 trial date.

The lawsuit names the county, the sheriff and George F. Sheckleton, the jail doctor at the time. The county's chief civil litigator, Kevin Gillen, said his office does not comment about ongoing civil cases. Sheckleton also declined comment.

The lawsuit seeks the statutory maximum of $1.5 million in damages that can be claimed against the county, Rate said.

Miller was arrested in Missouri in September 2009 on a warrant charging him with theft. He was returned to Billings and booked into the Yellowstone County Detention Facility.

He complained at least 17 times over the next 11 months about a lump in his throat, severe pain and bleeding in his mouth without being diagnosed or treated, the lawsuit alleges. In response to his complaints jail staff told him to drink plenty of water, gave him salt water for gargling and ibuprofen for pain. In May 2010, he specifically said he thought he had cancer, the lawsuit said.

Miller was sentenced in July 2010 and transferred to a Missoula detention facility in August 2010.

Over the next few weeks, 17 of Miller's teeth were pulled and he was diagnosed with cancer. He ultimately was put on probation and returned to Billings for treatment, the complaint said.

Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com

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