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Washington Paraplegic’s Suit Settled for $2,750, Singe Cell and Specialist Consult

The State of Washington paid a paraplegic prisoner $250 in costs, and $2,500 in attorney’s fees to settle a federal lawsuit alleging inadequate medical care, pain management and living conditions. The State also agreed to a specialist consult, at state expense, and to house the prisoner in a single cell.

Washington prisoner John R. Chavers suffered a spinal cord injury from multiple bullet wounds, leaving him a paraplegic. His condition requires him to perform procedures, which “while locked in a prison cell with another man present is not only humiliating, it could well prove dangerous if (his) cell-mate was prone to violence and became disgusted at the unhygienic, revolting situation.”

Prison medical staff refused to treat Chavers’ “extreme chronic pain,” except “to prescribe drugs that are not designed to combat pain, drugs that have already proven ineffectual.” The prison Medical Director refused to prescribe narcotics, “even if that refusal means spending the rest of my life suffering chronic pain,” wrote Chavers. Medical staff also refused to send Chavers for a specialist consultation and examination, because prisoners don’t “deserve such expensive treatment.”

On September 8, 2005, Chavers filed a federal civil rights action, seeking a consultation with a spinal cord injury specialist, permanent placement in a single, handicapped-accessible cell, and “punitive and compensative fees including but not limited to filing fees and attorney fees….”

On May 29, 2007, the parties entered a Settlement Agreement under which the State : paid Chavers $250.00 “to cover the costs incurred by the Plaintiff for bringing this lawsuit;” paid Chavers’ attorney, Kenneth Isserlis, $2,500 “for costs and attorney’s fees;” agreed to house Chavers in a “single man cell…at the Ahtanum View Correctional Complex in Yakima, Washington;” sent Chavers to a specialist for a “spinal cord injury evaluation,” at state expense; and agreed to follow the specialist’s treatment recommendations, with the exception that “at no time will DOC be providing Mr. Chavers with medical marijuana or its derivatives.”

The court entered a June 15, 2007 Agreed Order of Dismissal which incorporated the terms of the Settlement Agreement, but retained jurisdiction to enforce the agreement. See: Chavers v. Miller-Stout, USDC No. CV-05-00228-CI (ED Wa. 2007). 

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Related legal case

Chavers v. Miller-Stout