A Tiny Township woman has filed a $1.5-million lawsuit against the province and two doctors relating to her son’s overdose in a Lindsay jail.
Angela Vos lost her 26-year-old son, Jordan Sheard, in June 2020.
Sheard, who grew up in Barrie and also lived in Springwater and Orillia, died of an overdose at the Central East Correctional Centre, where he was sent after threatening to kill himself. He had hidden a large quantity of fentanyl in his body before arriving at the correctional centre.
“I am hoping that this lawsuit can make changes for those who are still suffering,” Vos tells MidlandToday, adding she hopes it results in the implementation of policies and procedures within the health-care and correctional systems to help those experiencing mental-health and drug issues.
“I believe these people have been sentenced to correction, not to death by neglect. I’m hoping my lawsuit will help me maintain my voice and speak to those who do not seem to understand mental health, and how we are not appropriately supporting people.”
Filed at the Superior Court of Justice in London, the lawsuit seeks general damages of $1 million for Vos, in her role as administrator of Sheard’s estate, as well as “special damages in an amount to be determined with particulars to be provided prior to trial,” along with a declaration of infringement of Sheard’s rights and freedoms guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and damages for “negligence, wrongful behaviour, misconduct, wrongdoing, breach of trust and breach of other duties.”
And for Vos, personally, the lawsuit seeks $400,000 in damages pursuant to the Family Law Act and $100,000 in damages “for negligent infliction of nervous shock.”
Besides the province, the lawsuit targets “Dr. John Doe and Dr. Jane Doe,” the identities of whom are unknown at this time, who it notes were at all material times health-care or correctional facility physicians who were responsible for and were involved in the provision of Sheard’s medical treatment and care. The lawsuit goes on to say the two doctors “owed a duty of care” to Sheard.
“The doctors did not adequately treat his condition and negligently allowed Jordan to be prematurely released from the hospital and back to the custody of Central East Correctional Centre, contrary to all reasonable policies and procedures."
The lawsuit further notes Sheard was not properly monitored or cared for by jail staff, including being left unattended at “a time staff knew or ought to have known he was vulnerable and his health and safety was at risk.
“Jordan died as a result of the negligence, wrongful behaviour, misconduct, wrongdoing, breach of trust and other duties of the defendants,” the lawsuit states, further noting there were many failures leading to Sheard’s death, including the need to ensure adequate and properly trained staff were available.
“(They) failed to protect Jordan when they knew or ought to have known that his health, safety, well-being and life were at risk (and) failed to provide Jordan with the necessities of life; failed to save Jordan’s life when they had the opportunity to do so.”
The lawsuit, which has not been tested in court, claims that as a result of the defendants’ “negligence and intentional acts,” Vos has suffered “agony and torment of the death of her son” along with incurred expenses, including, but not limited to, funeral costs.
Ministry of the Solicitor General spokesman Andrew Morrison said the ministry does not publicly comment on matters before the court.
Vos, however, went on to tell MidlandToday information she provided to authorities about her son and his medical condition should have prevented Sheard’s death. She also says preventative measures at the Lindsay jail, including the two scanners that confirmed Sheard had drugs hidden in his body, weren’t implemented correctly.
“This lawsuit was filed in November, but I just received the response (from the province) and they are asking for more time to secure the files from (Orillia) Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital as well as Central East Correctional Centre. We are looking for the names of the doctors who are unnamed in our lawsuit.”
Vos says she was spurred on to file the lawsuit because she was “extremely disappointed” with how the entire situation was handled.
“It took a lot for me to admit that I knew what was going on with Jordan and my cries fell on deaf ears, and all the preventative things that I had faith in failed,” she says.
“From reading Jordan’s autopsy report, the neglect was continuous through an entire weekend of his suffering. I’ve been told it is the most disgusting display of neglect, and I feel that in my soul, Jordan didn’t deserve to die. He deserved the corrections, his family he was seeking.
“We are innocent until proven guilty in Canada, but Jordan never even got a chance and their negligence sentenced him to death.”
Vos says the unidentified doctors are at fault because they sent Sheard back to jail while “the actions taken by the correctional centre were a breach of all ethical treatment for someone experiencing an overdose. Instead of getting Narcan, they gave him Gravol.”
A post-mortem report released in 2021 revealed some additional information surrounding Sheard’s fentanyl overdose.
“As per psychiatric observations, his insight and judgment were rated as poor,” the report noted after examining records from the Toronto-area hospital taken in May 2020.
“These behaviours were possibly due to substance misuse, as he had no such reported behaviours when not misusing substances.
“The next day, arrangements were made for Jordan to be transferred to a treatment centre. However, he refused. On May 29, his father revoked his surety, and Jordan was once again arrested by the York Regional Police Service. The next day, he was admitted to the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay.”
The report prepared by the province’s Forensic Pathology Service for the Ontario coroner’s office reveals Sheard was twice checked for drugs by guards using body scanners before entering the Lindsay jail, but nothing was picked up.
“Jordan should never have been in jail,” Vos says, adding her son also suffered from a brain injury and a seizure disorder.
“We just asked for a mental health officer, a wellness check, because he was trying to kill himself.”
According to the coroner’s report, Sheard was taken to Ross Memorial Hospital after displaying “bizarre and unusual behaviours” at the jail.
“This prompted an assessment at the emergency department after which several hours he was discharged back to the corrections facility,” the report noted. “He continued to display unusual behaviour upon his return.
“On June 1, early in the morning, he was found vital signs absent in his cell. Resuscitation was attempted but he was later pronounced deceased.”
The pathology report also noted that lodged inside Sheard’s colon was “a torn and knotted piece of grey plastic bag” containing a purple substance later identified as fentanyl.
“Toxicology demonstrated elevated levels of fentanyl and etizolam. Flualprazolam was also detected but no analytical method was available to determine the concentration. Given the above history and evidence the cause of death is attributed to fentanyl, etizolam and possible flualprazolam toxicity, the manner accidental.”