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$500,000 Settlement in Pennsylvania Jail Prisoner’s Medical-Related Death

A $500,000 settlement has been reached in a federal lawsuit involving the death of a prisoner at Pennsylvania’s Fayette County Prison. Terry Johnson, 48, died in his cell in February 2007 after he was denied medical care.

The suit, filed by Johnson’s wife, Lorraine, named several prison employees and the facility’s medical contractor, PrimeCare Medical, as defendants. Shortly after Johnson’s arrest on February 22, 2007 for violating a restraining order against trying to contact his wife, he began complaining of abdominal pain.

He had developed a perforation in his intestines and contracted peritonitis, an infection of the membrane that covers the inner wall of the stomach. The perforation was a complication of gastric bypass surgery that Johnson had had in 2002. Although he required immediate medical attention, guards ignored his pleas for help. He died in his cell at 9:00 a.m. on February 23, 2007.

The lawsuit claimed that Johnson endured “30 hours of unnecessary and excruciating pain, suffering, and agony” prior to his death. The $500,000 settlement, reached in December 2011, will be paid by an insurance liability fund run by the State County Commissioners Association.

The settlement came after several days of testimony at trial; no admission of liability was made by the prison or its employees. The jury subsequently entered a verdict in favor of PrimeCare Medical, which was not a party to the settlement. See: Johnson v. Medlock, U.S.D.C. (W.D. Penn.), Case No. 2:09-cv-00234-LPL.

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Related legal case

Johnson v. Medlock