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$11.3 Million Jury Award for Former Colorado Jail Prisoner

A federal jury awarded a former Jefferson County Detention Center prisoner more than $11 million against the sheriff and the jail’s privately-contracted medical provider, Correctional Healthcare Companies (CHC) – now Correct Care Solutions – after he was denied medical treatment for at least 16 hours despite obvious signs of a stroke. Following the verdict, the suit settled under confidential terms.

In 2012, Kenneth McGill, 44, was serving a sentence for DUI at the Jefferson County jail in Golden, Colorado. He was working in the kitchen when he had a sudden, severe headache accompanied by dizziness. A nurse told him he was probably dehydrated and needed to drink some water.

Later, McGill had trouble “navigating” the stairs. A deputy took him to the infirmary using a wheelchair. There, a physician’s assistant conducted some tests and sent him back to his housing unit.

According to court documents, his symptoms increased drastically while he was watching a football game in the common area. Another prisoner told him the right side of his face was drooping and he was likely having a stroke.

McGill called his wife. In the recorded conversation, an obviously terrified McGill told her, “My whole right side is numb. I can’t talk. You don’t know how hard it is to even talk.”

A fellow prisoner convinced a deputy that McGill needed medical attention. He was again wheeled to the medical unit where he was seen by RN Gina Marie Battenhouse. When McGill told Battenhouse that he thought he was having a stroke and required hospital care, she sarcastically replied, “Are you a doctor? Have you had a stroke before? What do you know about strokes?”

Battenhouse did not chart McGill’s drooping face, and falsely charted that he could walk around the room normally, despite his being unable to do so and having been brought to the medical unit in a wheelchair. She told him he was having a panic attack and sent him back to his housing area for bed rest.

Yet another prisoner – a former paramedic – convinced another deputy to call a different nurse. She arrived saying, “I’m just here to give him ibuprofen.”

McGill was later placed in a special housing cell for observation as punishment for repeatedly requesting medical assistance. The cell had no mattress. “He was intentionally and punitively left to lie on the concrete floor ... thinking he was dying – for almost seven hours.”

McGill was finally seen by a physician who examined him, then, instead of immediately transporting him to a hospital, called the nursing staff in to berate them for ignoring a stroke. About an hour later, deputies took McGill to the outpatient area of a local hospital instead of the emergency room, further delaying his treatment. An MRI confirmed he arrived at the hospital “well over 16 hours after the likely beginning of his first stroke.”

There was evidence the delay caused McGill to suffer permanent injuries, including limping, dizziness, partial paralysis, cognitive impairment and difficulty multi-tasking. With the assistance of Denver attorneys Anna C. Holland and Erica T. Grossman, he filed a federal lawsuit against CHC, Battenhouse and Jefferson County Sheriff Ted Mink under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his constitutional rights and negligence. Following a ten-day trial in December 2014, the jury awarded him $2,848,981 in compensatory damages plus punitive damages of $854,994 against Battenhouse and $7,694,951 against CHC for a total award of $11,398,926. The parties then entered into a confidential settlement, and the case was dismissed in early 2015. See: McGill v. Correctional Healthcare Companies, U.S.D.C. (D. Co.), Case No. 1:13-cv-01080-RBJ-BNB.

Battenhouse remains a registered nurse, and no discipline was taken against her by the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies.

Additional sources: Denver Post, Federal Verdict Reporter

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Related legal case

McGill v. Correctional Healthcare Companies