Prisoners Win $8 Million for Failure to Treat Hep C,
A federal jury has awarded four Illinois prisoners over $2
million apiece in a civil rights action filed against state
prison officials for denying treatment for Hepatitis C (Hep C).
In 2005, Edward J. Roe, Anthony P. Stasiak, Timothy J. Stephen
and Jackson Walker, all state prisoners at the Logan
Correctional Center (LCC) in Lincoln, Illinois, were denied Hep
C treatment. Hep C is a blood-borne disease that can cause liver
failure if left untreated; it is most often spread through IV
drug use, needle sharing (including tattoo needles) and
Larry Sims, the Chief Administrative Officer at LCC; Willard
Elyea, Medical Director for the Illinois Department of
Corrections (IDOC); and IDOC Director Roger Walker refused to
provide Hep C treatment based on a blanket policy that denied
such treatment to prisoners with fewer than 18 months left to
serve on their sentences.
In September 2005, the four LCC prisoners filed a lawsuit under
42 U.S.C. § 1983 in U.S. District Court for the Central District
of Illinois. They claimed the non-treatment policy resulted from
the defendants’ deliberate indifference to their serious medical
needs, in violation of the 8th and 14th Amendments to the U.S.
On February 15, 2008 a federal jury agreed that the policy was
unconstitutional, and awarded the prisoners $20,000 each in
actual damages and $2,000,000 each in punitive damages.
Attorney H. Kent Heller of Mattoon, Illinois represented the
plaintiffs; he said this was the largest monetary judgment he
had ever won for a client. Attorney fees have not yet been
awarded in this case. See: Roe v. Sims, U.S.D.C. CD Ill., Case
Hep C-related prison litigation appears to be on the upswing,
since large numbers of prisoners are infected with the disease
and most prison systems are unwilling to provide the expensive –
though necessary – medical treatment for it.
For example, on July 8, 2008, a class action lawsuit was filed
against the California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR)
on behalf of California’s 159,000 state prisoners. The complaint
states they do not receive adequate treatment for Hep C, which
infects an estimated 40 percent of the CDCR population. See:
Jackson v. Dezember, U.S.D.C. CD Cal., Case No.
“This is a nasty, nasty disease,” said attorney Shawn Khorrami,
who filed the class action suit. “We don’t allow this kind of
punishment in America, where someone has a disease and we have
them suffer from it and have all kinds of problems going forward
in their lives just because they’ve committed a crime.”
Actually prison officials routinely allow such punitive medical
neglect to occur, which is why such lawsuits are necessary.