The family of an inmate who died in an Oregon jail in 2014 has settled their medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit filed against the jail medical services provider, Corizon Health, Inc. (“Corizon”), the local sheriff, the Oregon county where the jail is located, and others, for $10 million. The 26-year-old jail inmate died from heroin withdrawal seven days after being booked into the jail.
In a statement issued on December 7, 2018, the CEO of Corizon stated, in part: “As our Offer of Judgement indicates, in 2014, our medical team at the Washington County Jail failed Madaline Pitkin and her family. The amount of this settlement is unprecedented for our company and reflects how far removed the facts of this case are from our standards and expectations of care. For whatever small comfort this may provide, the lessons we’ve learned from this case have been catalysts for significant changes we have made and are still making to our clinical program.
I was not at Corizon Health when Ms. Pitkin was our patient but am deeply disappointed in our performance at the time and feel tremendous sympathy for her parents and loved ones. The company was reorganized in 2017, and today we operate with a new leadership team and new Board that includes three independent directors. We are committed to ensuring our company supports our teams in providing the best possible care.”
The Complaint filed in 2016 in the United States District Court District of Oregon – Portland Division alleged, in part: “Madaline Pitkin was arrested in the evening of April 16, 2014 by Tualatin Police Department for unlawful possession of heroin. A few hours later she was booked into the Washington County jail. At that time, and all times relevant, Washington County contracted with Corizon Health, Inc. to provide medical services at the jail. At intake (4/17/14, about 4:14 am), Pitkin notified medical staff that she last used heroin, one gram intravenously, about 7 pm the prior evening, and that she was feeling the effects of withdrawal. Pitkin was placed in the general population unit, where she remained for seven days. The following morning (4/18/14) LPN Louisa Duru performed a Clinical Opiate Withdrawal Scale (COWS) evaluation of Pitkin. That evaluation was flawed in at least one respect (numeric results incorrectly tabulated). LPN Dura then ordered Pitkin started on a Partial Opiate Withdrawal Protocol. Duru later advising investigators that she had checked with the doctor for approval of her actions. The only doctor working at the jail at this time, Joseph McCarthy, MD, had not, however, been consulted by LPN Dura concerning her COWS evaluation or initiation of the Partial Opiate Withdrawal Protocol. LPN Dura advised Pitkin to let them know if she feels sick by putting in a medical request (Health Care Request) form. Over the next seven days Pitkin’s condition deteriorated. During those seven days Pitkin submitted at least four Health Care Request forms asking for medical care. None resulted in an exam, evaluation or other contact with medical staff. Rather, each request for medical attention received only a notation on the form by an LPN or RN. During those seven days deputies at the jail expressed concern about Pitkin’s deteriorating condition. During those seven days video surveillance confirms Pitkin’s deteriorating physical condition. By 4/23/14 jail deputy staff made multiple calls to Medical. RN CJ Buchanan finally responded, and possibly Dr. McCarthy as well and, unable to get a reliable blood pressure reading, Pitkin was transferred to the Medical Observation Unit (MOU). This was the only time Pitkin was seen by a doctor in the jail. The following morning (4/24/14) Pitkin was found dead in her cell in the MOU. Dr. McCarthy, the only physician on staff at the Washington County jail, had been terminated the day before Pitkin’s death (4/23/14), and no physician was on staff the day Pitkin died.”
The Complaint alleged that the defendants “were deliberately indifferent to Ms. Pitkin’s rights under the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution” and that “Madaline Pitkin was not provided timely medical care. If Pitkin had received timely and appropriate medical care, she would have been afforded the precautions and treatment that would have prevented her death. Madaline Pitkin suffered an agonizing death as a result of defendants’ failures.”
If you or a loved one may have a claim involving deliberate indifference to a serious medical need involving a present or former inmate, you should promptly find an inmate medical malpractice lawyer in your U.S. state who may investigate your deliberate indifference claim for you and represent you in an inmate medical malpractice lawsuit, if appropriate.
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