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$1.5 Million Awarded in Arizona Jail Medical Neglect Suit

On April 15, 1999, a Maricopa County Superior Court jury awarded $1.5 million in damages to former Maricopa County (Phoenix, Arizona) jail detainee Timothy Griffin. Griffin was imprisoned for driving on a suspended license. Griffin has a history of ulcers. While in the jail Griffin suffered extreme abdominal pain and requested ulcer medication, to no avail. Eventually Griffin was seen by a jail doctor who prescribed Maalox.

At that point, Griffin was unable to eat and the next day began vomiting blood. After waiting two hours in the jail hospital he was taken to a local hospital for emergency surgery to repair a perforated ulcer. Griffin developed peritonitis that required additional surgeries and five hospitalizations. Griffin continues to suffer from bowel problems and chronic diarrhea.

Griffin filed suit in state court claiming jail officials were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs. The jury returned a verdict of $1.5 million in favor of Griffin on his claims of negligence and medical malpractice. The trial judge dismissed the claims against Gail Steinhouser, the jail's medical director and dismissed negligence claims against sheriff Joe Arpaio and Maricopa county. The court denied a motion by the defendants to reduce the damage award, holding the damage award was reasonable. The county has appealed the verdict. Griffin was represented by Maria Crimi Speth of Phoenix law firm Grant, Williams, Lake and Dangerfield. See: Griffin v. Maricopa County, Maricopa County Superior Court, Case No. CV-95-16461

The Maricopa County jail is run by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who purports to be "America's toughest sheriff." Arpaio's antics of housing prisoners in tents, feeding them green baloney, clothing them in striped uniforms and pink underwear, etc., have gained widespread media attention. However, the steady diet of brutality and medical neglect, with the attendant lawsuit payouts, receive little attention outside the pages of PLN.

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Related legal case

Griffin v. Maricopa County