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California DOC Settles With Mistreated Diabetic Prisoner For $600,000

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) settled with a prisoner who had sued for failure to properly treat his diabetic condition that eventually resulted in blindness and amputations. The $600,000 settlement included attorney fees and costs.

When Daniel Cordero entered CDCR's Reception Center at Wasco State Prison on April 27, 2002, he was diagnosed as an insulin dependent diabetic. Three days later, he told medical staff that the shoes he was given were causing a lesion on his foot. Staff denied him alternative footwear. By June 18, 2002, his lesions had become very serious, and staff prescribed him special shoes. However, they failed to deliver them to him, which later caused permanent injuries including amputations.

He was also diagnosed with retinopathy (vision damage) at Wasco, but was told he would not see an ophthalmologist until he had been transferred to a permanent prison -- theoretically, within 60 days of arrival.
Meanwhile, his foot deteriorated, causing him to be hospitalized for months at Wasco. When he was transferred to the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility (SATF) at Corcoran State Prison on August 2, 2002, he was immediately hospitalized for treatment of his foot lesions. SATF prescribed antibiotics for Cordero's foot in late December 2002. Although Cordero had submitted two administrative appeals to see a podiatrist for his foot problems, none was provided until he had to have two toes amputated in July 2003.

However, his foot treatment only delayed medical care for his vision problems, notwithstanding his ongoing complaints of blurry vision, lines, and hemorrhaging in his eyes. When seen by doctors at SATF five times during September and October 2002, referrals were made each time to see an ophthalmologist. On November 6, 2002, the ophthalmologist saw Cordero, recommended immediate laser surgery to save his eyesight, and referred him to see an eye surgeon in one month. Despite repeated complaints to SATF clinic doctors and three administrative appeals, his surgeon referral was delayed for six months. In May, 2003, Dr. R. Snow told Cordero that there would be no more treatment for his eyes, that there was nothing wrong with his foot, and that he was just a "con-artist" regarding medical complaints. The Director of Corrections denied his third-level appeal on May 22, 2003.

Although Cordero did in fact see the eye surgeon on June 12, 2003, CDCR medical staff did not comply with scheduling the surgery. On August 27, 2003, a SATF doctor directed that Cordero be given a "vision impaired" yellow vest, a white cane, and be housed on a lower tier because of his "permanent vision impairment." Cordero received the first of what proved to be unsuccessful surgeries on his left eye on August 28, 2003; he never received surgery on his right eye. It was too late.

Cordero sued CDCR in February 2005, alleging violations of his Eighth Amendment rights and his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (42 U.S.C.§ 12131) and the Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C. § 794), to wit: willful and knowing disregard for his serious medical needs. The parties settled for $600,000 on May 12, 2006. But this was not a victory for Cordero, who, now physically disabled and legally blind in both eyes, died in prison of complications from diabetes six months later. See: Cordero v. CDCR, U.S.D.C. (E.D. Cal.), Case No. 1:05-CV-0268 REC DLB.

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Related legal case

Cordero v. CDCR