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Arizona Federal Court Levies Sanctions Against Corizon Health

by Ed Lyon

Corizon Health, headquartered in Brentwood, Tennessee, is the nation’s largest private prison and jail healthcare provider. The company has, for many years, been mentioned in Prison Legal News – usually in connection with misconduct by Corizon employees, grossly inadequate medical care and lawsuits resulting in verdicts and settlements. [See, e.g.: PLN, Nov. 2018, p.60; Feb. 2017, p.32, 56; Sept. 2013, p.47]. 

Since 2017, Arizona state prisoner Arron Shawn Bossardet has been pursuing a lawsuit against Arizona DOC director Charles Ryan and Corizon employees concerning medical-related issues. He is represented by Phoenix attorney Stacy Scheff. On February 19, 2019, Scheff filed a motion seeking sanctions against the defendants for a plethora of discovery violations. She then followed up in March 2019, asking the federal district court to appoint an expert witness. 

Scheff took the defendants to task for allowing Bossardet to be transferred from an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant prison to a non-compliant facility. She also pointed out that many documents obtained in discovery did not agree with each other and many of the documents that were automatically required to be disclosed were missing or omitted. Some of the inconsistent records did not reflect Bossardet’s deep vein thrombosis diagnosis, as well as subsequent entries concerning a heart defect and femoral nerve damage. Scheff then pointed out examples of incomplete medical notes and other deficiencies that, taken together, “fit the requirements for the Court to enter sanctions.”

The motion for appointment of an expert witness was submitted after the Corizon defendants testified in court regarding the medical necessity of an MRI and consultation with an orthopedic surgeon. Since that testimony, Corizon’s “Utilization Management Team” deviated from those medical referrals, instead instituting an alternate treatment plan. In an earlier order, the district court had said the appointment of an independent expert would be called for if the defendants were to adopt any alternate treatment plan. Scheff also believed that an expert witness was needed because the defendants had accused Bossardet of faking his medical condition. 

A hearing was held on the motions before Chief U.S. District Court Judge Frank R. Zapata, culminating in a May 1, 2019 order. Because the defendants testified that the alternative treatment plan had been withdrawn and the MRI with orthopedic consult would be performed within 30 days, Bossardet’s motion for an expert witness was denied. 

The motion for sanctions was granted, however, and Scheff was directed to “submit a detailed, itemized expense form for all legal services associated with filing the motion for sanctions, and Defendants must pay all reasonable expenses.” See: Bossardet v. Ryan, U.S.D.C. (D. AZ), Case No. 4:17-cv-00517-FRZ.

In January 2019, the Arizona DOC announced that another private healthcare provider, Centurion, would take over the medical services contract from Corizon, effective July 1, 2019. The state’s new contract with Centurion is worth $204 million annually.

The Arizona DOC has been embroiled in a class-action suit over inadequate medical care for seven years, including during the term of the Corizon contract, resulting in a settlement, a contempt finding and $1.4 million in court-ordered fines against prison officials. [See: PLN, April 2019, p.56; Nov. 2018, p.1; Feb. 2016, p.56]. According to a July 3, 2019 news report, the plaintiffs in the class-action suit are currently seeking fines of $10,000 per day for the DOC’s failure to report all incidents of non-compliance with the settlement agreement. 

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Additional sources: kjzz.com, abc15.com, Associated Press