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Ex-Prisoner Awarded $2.7 Million on Remand in Medical Neglect Suit

On April 20, 2001, a Denver jury awarded former Colorado prisoner Arthur Nieto, 44, damages totalling $2.7 million in a medical neglect suit against Colorado prison officials and medical staff. In 1991, while imprisoned at the Delta County Correctional Facility, Nieto contracted a sinus infection. Despite repeated requests for medical attention, Nieto did not receive any treatment whatsoever. Prison nurses threatened to infract him if he continued seeking medical care. The sinus infection eventually spread to his brain, causing a stroke that permanently paralyzed the left side of his body.

Nieto did not receive medical treatment until guards found him unconscious in his cell, with one of his eyeballs pushed out of its socket due to pus and fluid buildups in his head. Only then was Nieto taken to a local hospital where doctors immediately performed surgeries for his brain, sinuses and eye. Nieto is permanently disabled as a result. He was paroled from prison in 1993.

In 1993 Nieto filed suit in state court claiming violation of his civil rights, and medical malpractice by prison doctors. A Denver jury awarded him $1.8 million, which the state appealed and Nieto cross-appealed. The Colorado Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for a new trial after holding it could not determine how much money had been awarded for the civil rights violations as opposed to the medical malpractice claims. See: State v. Nieto , 993 P.2d 493 (Colo. 2000). [ PLN , Jan. 2001.]

At the retrial, a jury awarded Nieto $2.7 million in damages after finding prison officials and nurses negligent in their treatment of Nieto. Alison Morgan, a spokesperson for the Colorado DOC said the agency was considering an appeal but had no other comment. Nieto's lawyer, Robert Ozer, said he was pleased with the verdict.

Nieto told media that he would gladly give up the money to have his health back. Nieto said the money could not give back the use of his left arm and leg or relieve the headaches and spastic seizures he now suffers.

Source: Denver Post.

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Related legal case

State v. Nieto