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“Egregious” Lack of Care by Jail’s Medical Contractor Leads to $1 Million Settlement

by Dale Chappell

An “egregious” lack of medical treatment that resulted in the death of a jail prisoner led Albany County, New York and its private health care contractor to settle a lawsuit filed by the prisoner’s family for over $1 million.

Mark Cannon died in 2014 after he suffered a stroke that was ignored by jail staff. For more than 24 hours, Cannon exhibited extreme medical symptoms that “any lay person, and especially trained medical staff, knew or should have known” required immediate medical attention, the federal suit filed by his family stated.

The complaint described a number of disturbing details. When guards noticed Cannon vomiting and unable to walk, they notified Correctional Medical Care (CMC), the jail’s for-profit health care provider, and took him to the infirmary. There, a CMC nurse gave Cannon Gatorade and returned him to his cell. Jail video showed Cannon stumbling into walls and vomiting on the way back to his cell. Later, when he asked a guard for a dinner tray and to see medical staff, the guard refused because “he had fucked up his night by making him do paper work,” and said the CMC nurse was refusing to see him, the suit alleged.

Cannon was found unresponsive in his cell nearly a day later, foaming at the mouth. Jail staff and a CMC nurse dragged him out by his leg and finally called a doctor, who ordered Cannon to be taken to a hospital. He spent several days on life support and died on his 24th birthday, leaving behind an infant daughter.

An investigation by the New York State Commission of Correction into Cannon’s death found the treatment he received at the jail was “so grossly negligent it shocks the conscience.” The lawsuit filed by Cannon’s family cited a slew of previous Commission reports chronicling inadequate care by CMC in New York jails. Nevertheless, the state Attorney General allowed CMC to keep its $32 million in contracts at 13 county jails, only hitting the company with a $200,000 civil penalty in 2014. [See: PLN, Sept. 2016, p.54].

Albany County terminated its contract with CMC in 2017. Sheriff Craig Apple testified in a deposition during the lawsuit that the company’s “performance” in Cannon’s death was a deciding factor.

The settlement, reached by the parties in September 2017 and approved by the district court in December, requires CMC to pay Cannon’s family $999,999.99 and the county to pay $95,000. A State Medical Review Board also recommended firing a CMC nurse for “grossly negligent nursing care.” The defendants did not admit to any wrongdoing in the settlement agreement. See: Cannon v. Correctional Medical Care, Inc., U.S.D.C. (N.D. NY), Case No. 9:15-cv-01417-DJS. 

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Related legal case

Cannon v. Correctional Medical Care, Inc.