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Motions to Dismiss by Corizon and Wexford Denied in Lawsuit Over Florida Prisoner’s Double Leg Amputation

by Matt Clarke 

On December 14, 2018, a federal district court in Florida denied motions to dismiss by Wexford Health Sources and Corizon Health in a medical deliberate indifference case where a state prisoner’s legs were amputated. 

Craig Salvani was 38 years old when he arrived at the Florida Department of Corrections’ South Florida Reception Center on February 6, 2014. His intake medical screening included blood and urine tests; at the time, he was complaining of back pain, coughing green mucus and feeling unwell. 

Six days later, Salvani was seen by Wexford employee Esther Mathurin, who performed his initial medical exam and noted the blood and urine tests showed an infection. Salvani had symptoms of sepsis, and an X-ray showed a left lung granuloma; however, Mathurin did not order a follow-up X-ray or any treatment for the infection. 

Salvani was later transferred to the Reception Medical Center where Corizon provided healthcare services. No intake medical assessment was performed, and he said he was threatened by staff when he tried to submit a sick call request.

Four days later, Salvani received emergency medical attention at 1:14 a.m. because he could not speak and was hyperventilating, confused, had low blood pressure, tachycardia and the medical staff was unable to start an IV. He was then seen by Corizon employee Josue Jorge-Caraballo, who did not immediately summon an ambulance or provide treatment for sepsis. Finally, after Salvani became unresponsive, an ambulance was called at 8:20 a.m. and he went into cardiac arrest. 

Hospital personnel diagnosed him with “severe sepsis, tricuspid valve endocarditis, pneumonia, severe esophagitis, malnourishment, and acute renal failure.” Due to the sepsis infection, both his legs had to be amputated.

Salvani filed a federal lawsuit in 2017, asserting – among other claims – that Wexford and Corizon had violated his civil rights under a Monell theory of liability. The companies separately moved to dismiss. 

Accepting Salvani’s allegations as true, the district court disagreed with Wexford’s argument that the complaint was a “shotgun pleading.” Instead, the court found that his claim that the company had a policy to delay and deny medical care, and his notation of prior cases where that had happened, were “plainly material” to the issues raised in his complaint.

The district court also held that Salvani’s allegation that a Wexford employee “saw him, reviewed his blood labs, identified an infection and signs of sepsis, obtained a radiological exam showing a potential septic emboli on his left lung, ignored the radiologist’s instructions for follow-up X-rays, and failed to provide further treatment,” which led to his severe septic shock 10 days later and the amputation of his legs, sufficiently alleged a constitutional violation. 

As for Corizon, the company’s fact-intensive arguments, based largely on issues of causation and its employees’ state of mind, were inappropriate for determination in a pre-discovery motion to dismiss. 

Therefore, the court denied both motions and ordered the defendants to file an answer to the complaint. The case is still pending, though a partial settlement was reached with one of the defendants, LPN J. Townsend, on June 5, 2019. See: Salvani v. Corizon Health, Inc.,U.S.D.C. (S.D. Fla.), Case No. 1:17-cv-24567-RNS. 

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Additional source: flarecord.com

Related legal case

Salvani v. Corizon Health, Inc.