$10M judgment awarded in death of Oregon jail inmate
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A federal judge has approved a $10 million judgment against Corizon Health and other defendants, settling a lawsuit brought by the parents of a 26-year-old woman who died pleading for medical help while detoxing from heroin in an Oregon jail.
The settlement offered by Corizon was accepted this week by Madaline Pitkin’s parents, Mary and Russell Pitkin, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported .
Madaline Pitkin died April 24, 2014, on her seventh day at the Washington County Jail in Hillsboro after her arrest on a warrant and heroin possession charge. She had made four written pleas for help that medical staff mostly discounted or mishandled, according to court documents.
Medical staff eventually sent Pitkin to the jail’s medical unit. She was so dehydrated she couldn’t provide a urine sample. She died there the next morning, alone on the floor of a cell, documents said.
Staff had repeatedly ranked her withdrawal symptoms as mild, and nurses failed to track her low blood pressure, according to the lawsuit. No doctor was working in the jail when she died because the jail’s head doctor had been fired, the lawsuit said.
An autopsy determined her cause of death was dehydration.
Her parents said they hoped sharing their daughter’s story , which was chronicled by The Oregonian/OregonLive in April 2016, would help prevent similar deaths from occurring and hold private health care providers accountable.
“We felt we needed to stand up for her,” said Russell Pitkin, sitting with his wife and lawyers Friday. “We’ve done all we can do to shine a light on it. It’s just tragic. It’s got to stop.”
The eight-figure judgment is the largest ever awarded against Corizon Health, the nation’s largest for-profit medical provider for prisons and jails. Corizon has faced multiple lawsuits nationwide that allege inadequate medical care similar to the Pitkins’ lawsuit.
In a statement, Corizon said its medical team at the 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,” said Martha Harbin, director of external affairs.
Tim Jones, a lawyer for the Pitkins, said he hoped the case and the large settlement amount “impacts all jails” and puts counties on notice to pay attention to their medical providers’ contracts.
The Washington County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement that it has made many changes in providing health care to its inmates. Corizon stopped providing medical services at the jail on May 31, 2015.
“The death of Madaline Pitkin was a tragedy, and our thoughts are with her family,” the sheriff’s office said.
Information from: The Oregonian/OregonLive, http://www.oregonlive.com