The Oregon Supreme Court Just Greenlit a Disability Discrimination Lawsuit Against a Jail Medical Provider Based on its Failure to Provide Proper Care

When a loved one has been hurt (or has died) because they did not receive proper medical care while incarcerated, the ultimate goal always is to get justice. Simply obtaining a court document that generally says “judgment for the plaintiff” may not always, in and of itself, be enough. A truly successful case means asserting all the right claims and holding all the responsible parties accountable. As you and your family seek to do that, be sure to rely on a knowledgeable Oregon civil rights lawyer experienced in handling jail medical neglect cases.

Maximizing your case’s strength often means, among other things, including in your lawsuit every person and entity liable for the harm your loved one endured. When it comes to doing that, a recent ruling from the Oregon Supreme Court is very helpful for prisoners harmed by mistreatment (or the families of prisoners killed by such negligence.)

The prisoner in the case had diabetes. He also was deaf and communicated using American Sign Language (ASL). A Clackamas County deputy who did not understand ASL tried to communicate with him. The deputy wrongfully identified the prisoner as a suicide risk and placed him on suicide watch.

For three days, those responsible for providing medical care at the jail held the man on a suicide watch. None of them understood ASL and they never provided an ASL interpreter for the man. Across those three days, a series of miscommunications (resulting from the lack of an ASL interpreter) led to the prisoner receiving no meals… and no insulin.

The prisoner’s suit was unique for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the prisoner alleged that his treatment inside the jail amounted to disability discrimination in violation of the Oregon Public Accommodations Law (OPAL). Additionally, the prisoner sued not the county or any other public entity but the private company that provided medical care inside the Clackamas County Jail.

That private entity, Corizon Health, is the second-largest private provider of medical services in jails and prisons. (Wellpath Care is #1.) Both Wellpath and Corizon have been sued countless times, leaving behind a long track record of providing substandard care. Wellpath and Corizon (along with two other providers) made more than $3.5 billion in 2018 and they provided the medical care services for more than 60% of the prisoners incarcerated in the United States.

The Ruling Recognizes Another Way for Prisoners and Their Families to Seek Justice

The law already was clear that prisoners are entitled to appropriate medical care while in jail and that prisoners (or the families of deceased prisoners) can pursue claims against private providers of jail medical care under federal law (42 U.S.C. Section 1983) when the care they receive is so substandard that it constitutes a deprivation of rights.

The new decision from the Oregon Supreme Court said that inadequate treatment may also constitute a case of disability discrimination under the OPAL. The court ruled that medical services at a county jail constituted a public accommodation. Although Corizon didn’t provide medical care to the general public, its services still met the standard for public accommodations. Corizon served prisoners inside the Clackamas County Jail but did not “impose any additional selective criteria.” That lack of additional criteria meant that Corizon’s services were public accommodations and it was potentially liable for disability discrimination in its treatment of the inmate with diabetes.

If you believe that you or a loved one suffered substantial harm while behind bars due to the provision of substandard medical care, you have the right to pursue action. What’s more, you have the right to pursue the private company that engaged in the negligence that harmed you or your loved one. The Oregon civil rights attorneys at Kaplan Law LLC are dedicated to representing inmates and their families as they take on these often complex and challenging cases. Our team proudly offers extensive experience in successfully taking on both public and private entities to hold them accountable for their misdeeds. Call us today at (503) 226-3844 or contact us online to set up your free consultation.

50 SW Pine St 3rd Floor Portland, OR 97204 Telephone: (503) 226-3844 Fax: (503) 943-6670 Email:
map image