Hamilton County attorney general recuses himself from Orange Grove Center death case

Hamilton County attorney general recuses himself from Orange Grove Center death case

October 12th, 2017 by Zack Peterson in Local Regional News

A school bus is parked in the Orange Grove Center bus lot on Thursday, May 4, 2017, in Chattanooga, Tenn. The center has had numerous complaints about patient care, and a client was found dead on a different Orange Grove bus last month.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

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The Hamilton County district attorney general has recused himself from making any decisions on whether to pursue criminal charges in the death of an Orange Grove Center patient.

Neal Pinkston, a past president of the center's board of directors, has asked another prosecutor to review evidence in the death of Carrie Lee Parkey Jr. The long-time patient was found lifeless in a van at a group home on Lillian Court on April 18.

District Attorney Mike Taylor of the 12th Judicial District has been appointed to the case, Pinkston spokeswoman Melydia Clewell said Tuesday. The 12th District covers Bledsoe, Franklin, Grundy, Marion, Rhea and Sequatchie counties

Once that paperwork is finalized, officers from the Chattanooga Police Department's homicide unit will meet with Taylor to determine if criminal charges are appropriate, police spokeswoman Elisa Myzal said.

Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston

Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Parkey, an Orange Grove patient since 1974, died from overheating and dehydration, according to an initial autopsy report from the Hamilton County Medical Examiner's Office. That report deemed Parkey's cause of death as "accidental," as opposed to homicide or suicide.

Still, his family members and a team of civil attorneys say Orange Grove is responsible for Parkey's wrongful death. They claim a center employee never removed the 60-year-old from a company van or failed to keep him from re-entering it.

The family filed a civil claim in late August in Hamilton County Circuit Court that Orange Grove's attorneys are now trying to dismiss. A hearing is set for Monday before Judge Marie Williams.

Orange Grove attorneys said Parkey's team was required to give 60 days' notice to medical providers before filing a "health-care liability action." They didn't do that, attorney Joseph White wrote in a motion from Oct. 4.

Because they will need an expert witness to discuss Parkey's injuries, his legal team also needed to attach a "certificate of good faith" with their Aug. 30 complaint, White wrote. That certificate had to confirm Parkey's team spoke with a competent expert who believes there is a "good-faith basis" to pursue a legal claim, according to Tennessee case law. Otherwise, their complaint can be dismissed.

They didn't do that either, White wrote.

Attorney James Logan, one of the people representing Parkey's family, said he is fully aware of the circumstances raised in the motion to dismiss and plans to file a response in the coming days.

"It is our continued hope," Logan said, "that we will be able to resolve this in a manner which is consistent with the best interests of our clients, Orange Grove, and the public policies of our state."

Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at zpeterson@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson 918.