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Family Awarded $229,000 Against CMS in Illinois Hepatitis C Jail Death

A jury has awarded the family of a prisoner who died while in the Kane County Illinois Jail $229,500. On May 16, 2002, after 92 hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict against Correctional Medical Services of Illinois, the jail's health care contractor. The total award was originally $450,000 ($50,000 disability; $100,000 pain and suffering; $300,000 pecuniary loss). However, the jury found that prisoner Ethel Hare was 49 percent responsible for her death and therefore awarded the family 51 percent of the total damages.

Hare, who suffered from hepatitis C, chronic liver disease and was HIV positive, was a prisoner at the jail in 1997. According to the lawsuit, Hare tried unsuccessfully to obtain help from CMS nurses five times over a 32 hour period beginning on March 20. At one point she informed the nurses she had been vomiting blood, but they did nothing. On March 22, five hours after her last attempt to get help, Hare was discovered comatose in her bunk. She did not regain consciousness and died two days later.

In their lawsuit, family members contended that CMS ignored the warning signs of Hare's worsening liver disease. "One of the dangers of liver disease is that you will bleed," says Attorney Susan Clancy -Boles. "She was slowly dying before their eyes and they didn't do anything." CMS argued that Hare's vomiting had seemed to resolve itself and that her medical problems were not due to recent illness, but rather her history of alcohol and drug abuse and chronic liver disease.

CMS lost its contract with Kane County Jail in 2000. Jail officials indicated that bid forms had been filled out improperly. The family was represented by Michael W. Clancy and Susan Clancy Boles of Clancy Law Offices in St. Charles. See: Hare v. Zeglar, Correctional Medical Services of Illinois, Inc., Kane Co. Sup. Ct. Case No. OOL-485 .

Sources: Jury Verdict, Daily Herald

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Related legal case

Hare v. Zeglar