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Jail Medical Malpractice Lawyer

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When someone dies in local county jail, it can be challenging for families to learn what happened. The county will often decline to comment, citing an ongoing investigation. If the county has a contract medical provider, that provider will also likely refuse to give any details. Families will eventually be told a story about their loved one's death, but they may wonder what really happened?

At The Law Office of Chad Stavley, we work to get the truth about what really happened. That means getting all the evidence, including video, nursing chart notes, statements from other inmates, and the policy and procedure manuals from the county and their health care provider.

If we determine there was wrongdoing, we bring cases and work them aggressively to get compensation for victims' families.

If you lost a loved one who died in a county jail or prison in Oregon and you suspect they may have been denied medical care or given inadequate medical care, call us for a free consultation.

The Problem With Corrections Medicine

Inmates have a constitutional right to adequate medical care. This applies to county jails where people may be housed awaiting trial or state prisons where a convicted inmate is serving a sentence. In each situation, the inmate is entirely relying upon the jails and prisons for their medical care. They can't leave to go to have their medical needs treated elsewhere.

In Oregon, many counties have outsourced their obligation to provide medical care by contracting with national companies such as Wellpath (formerly Correct Care Solutions), Corizon, and Naphcare. Many of these companies have been repeatedly named in medical malpractice lawsuits for providing inadequate or non-existent medical care in local jails. Part of the problem with many of these companies is that their business model is based on providing substandard medical care at a low cost.

Trying to Provide Cheap Medical Care

The problem begins when counties try to run their jail medical programs in the cheapest possible way. Unfortunately, that often leads them to request bids from these big national corrections health care companies who advertise themselves as a cheaper alternative.

These companies make proposals that look great on paper. They promise a level of staffing that includes a doctor and adequate nursing staff for the jail population. They promise to handle the jail medical program according to national standards such as the National Commission on Corrections Health Healthcare (NCCHC). They make a great proposal because they care about getting a lucrative contract.

The county likes how the proposal looks, and it also offers them cover. Nobody can claim they are not providing an appropriate jail medical program. After all, look at the contract and all the national corrections health company's promises.

Lack of Training

The problem becomes that what these companies deliver is not what they promised. The contracted medical provider often fails to provide medical care that meets the NCCHC standards they promised to follow. There is often no doctor, or if there is one, that person is in another state and only available by phone. The nursing positions are staffed by cheaper "med techs." These people have no relevant medical training! They are not trained to recognize symptoms of serious medical needs common to jail populations, including overdose, detoxification, and withdrawal from drugs or alcohol. They have no training related to chronic medical conditions such as diabetes. They also have no training in handling people with significant mental illness.

Consequently, people with life-threatening medical conditions are left without treatment. In addition, people with significant mental health issues are often treated as behavior problems rather than people experiencing a mental health crisis.

When people are denied health care services in these situations, outcomes are predictable. People are dying in Oregon jails because they did not receive appropriate medical care.

Lack of Accountability

An investigation is supposed to happen when a death occurs in county jail. An outside law enforcement agency will typically handle that investigation. They will typically not look closely at the health care providers. Instead, they are investigating to rule out homicide.

The jail medical provider and the county are supposed to do their own internal investigations. The medical provider will call these a sentinel event investigation. They will refuse to provide access to this "investigation," arguing that it is protected by a federal law that allows these reports to be confidential. In cases where courts have ordered these reports to be produced, the providers' "investigations" have often been proven to be little more than an institutional cover-up.

After the death investigations are over, the jail gets back to business as usual. The county doesn't do a thorough review and ask questions about why the provider who promised to follow the NCCHC standards did not do so. They don't ask why there was no doctor as promised? They don't ask why unlicensed "med techs" were used rather than nurses. Instead, they are happy to move on, safe in their belief that they are protected because the contracted medical provider is responsible for their jail medical program.

The jail medical provider is happy to move on too. They know that most in-custody deaths are minimally investigated. They know there is no accountability. By making no changes, they are ratifying the conduct that lead to the death in the first place. They also know that making changes and delivering the medical care they promised would be more expensive and cut into profits. So they also go back to business as usual.

Most of the time, that is where everything ends. There is no independent investigation. Family members mourn their loss and don't question what happened. Those who do often get records indicating that the loss of their loved one was not preventable. Very few contact a qualified law firm to do a thorough investigation. In those few cases, the level of jail medical neglect we have seen has been astonishing.

We Provide the Investigation the County and their Contract Medical Provider Won't

The system doesn't change if there is no real investigation into what really happened. That is part of what our office provides to families. There may be a case of wrongdoing or failure to provide adequate medical care, and there may not be. We will find out and give you answers. We get all of the evidence possible and examine it meticulously.

Videos Can Prove Deliberate Indifference

We will watch every minute of the available video. It is amazing how different the video can be from the chart notes of the medical provider. In a recent case, a nurse for a contract medical provider charted that she entered the inmate's cell and he sat up and was cooperative and responsive to having his blood pressure taken. She then wrote that he "suddenly" appeared to go unresponsive.

The video told a completely different story. The inmate died of a methamphetamine overdose after flopping all over his cell for four hours all the while being mocked by deputies. By the time this particular nurse came into this man's cell, he was minutes away from death. He did not sit up. He was lifted from a slumped position into a seated position by jailers. He did not respond to the nurse at all. The nurse's chart note was a lie. If the family had only received that chart note, they would think his death was not preventable.

Medical Charts or the Lack of Medical Charts Can Help Prove Medical Neglect

We get all chart notes from the contract medical provider and compare them to any video evidence. In the case example above, if the county or their contract medical provider had done a real investigation and actually looked at the chart notes and compared them to the video, they would have recognized severe medical malpractice and callous and deliberate indifference to the value of this man's life.

Inmate Interviews Can Help Establish Medical Neglect

As a part of our investigation, we will have the other inmates interviewed. Often, detectives never interviewed these people in their "investigation." These people can give us more information about denied health care, jail medical neglect, and practices that meet the federal standard of "deliberate indifference."

We Hire National Experts

We engage national experts in corrections, corrections health, corrections nursing, and any other medical experts that are needed. These experts review the file materials looking for deliberate indifference, violations of constitutional rights, and medical malpractice or medical mistake.

Cases for Failure to Provide Adequate Medical Care

If our investigation reveals medical negligence, jail medical neglect, or constitutional rights violations, we bring lawsuits against the responsible parties for wrongful death, and civil rights violations based on federal law.

These cases are usually gross medical malpractice that reaches the federal standard of "deliberate indifference." We work further to establish that the providers have a "pattern or practice" of failing to provide constitutionally guaranteed medical treatment.

We feel strongly that these cases must be done in a very thorough way. Therefore, we typically associate with other experienced lawyers in this field and tackle these cases as a group.

We either have or are currently working cases arising from county jails in the following counties:

  • Clackamas County
  • Multnomah County
  • Marion County
  • Columbia County
  • Benton County
  • Josephine County
  • Coos County

Our Cases Bring National Attention To Jail Medical Neglect

Our cases have exposed a level of neglect that has sometimes been so shocking that it brings national media attention to the problem. Our ultimate goal is to convince county jails and the corrections medical industry to make changes. Bringing these cases focuses attention on the counties and their contract medical providers in a way that makes it more difficult for them to go back to business as usual.

We welcome the attention these jail medical malpractice cases receive, and we believe it can significantly improve health care in jails and prisons. The first jail medical malpractice case we became involved in concerned the wrongful death of Bryan Perry in the Clackamas County jail. You can learn about it by clicking the link below.

If you believe a loved one was subject to cruel and unusual punishment, denied access to health care providers, or was otherwise the victim of medical negligence while at an Oregon jail or prison, call us for a free consultation. We investigate jail or prison medical malpractice cases throughout Oregon and Washington.

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Jail Medical Malpractice Frequently Asked Questions

What types of jail medical cases do you handle?

There are many types of jail medical cases we would consider accepting. We usually see the same types of cases happening again and again in Oregon jails. These include easily preventable deaths from drug and alcohol overdose or withdrawal. Jails have an obligation to make sure that people are fit for confinement before being allowed into the jail. People often have drug and alcohol issues that make them very vulnerable. Unfortunately, we see many poorly trained, understaffed jail medical providers not taking basic precautions that could save lives. Other cases include jail medical staff failing to provide timely medical treatment for serious medical or mental health conditions.

Does your law firm handle cases involving medical malpractice in prisons or just jails?

Most of our cases come from jails but we are always willing to discuss cases coming from jails and prisons.

My loved one died while in a county jail and we do not know what happened. How can we find out what really happened?

This is a common complaint. Unfortunately, you need to consult with a lawyer familiar with how to get all the information so that you know what really happened. We gather autopsy reports, medical records (or the lack of records) from the jail, jail deputy reports, cell check logs, videos and other important pieces of evidence to piece together what really happened. If it appears that the in-custody death was preventable, we bring lawsuits and get additional information by taking depositions and requesting policies, training records and additional helpful documents. You should know what really happened to your loved one and not settle for the initial story you get from the jail.

My family would like to hire you, how do we begin the process?

First, you call my office to set up a free case evaluation. I will talk to you about what you know and why you think there may not have been provided. If we decide to move forward, we would review my fee agreement and once that is signed, we would have an attorney-client relationship.

Do you handle serious injury cases or only wrongful death cases?

We handle jail medical malpractice and medical neglect cases that result in serious injury or death.

What medical conditions lead to the most jail medical malpractice cases?

Some of the most dangerous medical conditions that are common in county jails relate to drug and alcohol intoxication and withdrawal. We see cases where severely intoxicated people are brought to jail and not appropriately screened leading to an overdose. We also see cases where drug addicts and alcoholics are not appropriately helped through the withdrawal process. But there are many other medical issues that can result in a jail medical malpractice case including untreated heart conditions, ulcers, mental health emergencies leading to suicide and more.

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