• Lawsuit: SCSO deputy claims exposure to fentanyl caused overdoses and suicidal thoughts

    By: Kody Leibowitz

    Updated:

    SHELBY CO., Tenn. - A local deputy claims the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office failed to “professionally, thoroughly, and appropriately” decontaminate his squad vehicle of fentanyl that ultimately resulted in a second overdose two weeks in 2018. 

    Charles Eldridge, a deputy on the narcotics unit, filed a lawsuit on July 19 against Shelby County and CorVel Enterprise Comp, Inc. – which administers the county’s on-the-job injury policy for all Shelby County employees, according to the lawsuit.

    ORIGINAL STORY: Shelby County deputy back to work after being exposed to dangerous drug

    According to the lawsuit, Eldridge was bringing evidence back from a drug bust on July 31, 2018 in his work-issued vehicle. 

    The complaint states that part of the evidence included confiscated fentanyl and cash apparently contaminated by the drug. 


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    “The cash, unknown to the team that seized it, was also contaminated and was stored in the vehicle without any containment,” the complaint reads. “On the way to his office, Mr. Eldridge began experiencing a Fentanyl overdose, pulled over his vehicle, and self-administered two doses of Narcan.” 

    Eldridge alleged that the contaminated cash entered air ducts, contaminating other parts of his car, which caused his second overdose weeks later. 

    FOX13 first reported on Eldridge’s second overdose last August.  

    "Somehow fentanyl was on something, another object that was put in that truck and why we didn't detect it in the decontamination, we are not sure of,” said Earle Farrell, the then-Shelby County Sheriff's Office spokesperson. 

    Two weeks later, Eldridge alleged that after he turned on the air conditioning in his work vehicle, he “began experiencing the same symptoms of a fentanyl overdose that he experienced the previous time he drove his vehicle.”

    Again, the deputy said he had to give himself a dose of Narcan. 

    In the lawsuit, Eldridge said that the second accidental overdose caused his life to go on a downward spiral, including suicidal thoughts, panic attacks and anxiety. 

    He alleged that the sheriff’s office “engaged in a conduct of a reckless indifference to the safety and physical well-being of its officers who come into contact with dangerous and toxic controlled substances such as Fentanyl in the line of duty."

    A spokesperson for SCSO said the department could not comment on pending litigation and referred FOX13 to Shelby County government for comment.

    “Shelby County Government does not comment on legal matters,” said Lauren Lee, a spokesperson for Shelby County government.

    As part of the lawsuit, Eldridge is also suing CorVel. He alleges that the company “delayed and failed to provide adequate care.” 

    That, according to the lawsuit, resulted in a decline of the deputy’s condition after the second overdose. 

    “After allowing Plaintiff to see a clinical psychologist, they refused to approve a psychiatrist to prescribe medication suggested by the psychologist, but which only a psychiatrist can prescribe. Further, CorVel refused to acknowledge the request for in-patient treatment for Plaintiff until far too late in Plaintiff’s progression of his mental injury that has been diagnosed among other things as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”). This process of constantly delaying treatment, questioning healthcare professionals who are treating Plaintiff, and failing or delaying approval for Plaintiff’s medication, continues to this day,” the complaint reads.

    CorVel has not returned messages from FOX13 seeking comment.

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