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Corizon Settles Lawsuit Over Colorado Jail Prisoner’s Death for $3.7 Million; County Pays Another $200,000

by Matt Clarke

A lawsuit over the 2015 death of Adams County, Colorado jail detainee Tyler Tabor was secretly settled for $3.9 million in August 2018. The settlement only became public after court documents were filed complaining that Corizon Health had met only $1 million of its $3.7 million settlement obligation, with the company citing a “cash flow problem.”

Tabor, 25, was booked into the Adams County jail on two misdemeanor warrants on May 14, 2015. He told jail officials that he was addicted to opiates, and quickly began to suffer from withdrawal, including frequent vomiting. Corizon employees treated him with Gatorade and various medications, which were ineffective because he could not keep them down. 

Over the next three days, Tabor became critically dehydrated, collapsed and died on May 17, 2015. Guards and nurses observed him as he had difficulty standing or walking, and fell and had to be assisted with a wheelchair. He also showed other symptoms of extreme medical distress yet the nurses refused to use a saline IV, which would have saved his life. [See: PLN, Jan. 2018, p.38; Sept. 2017, p.32; Nov. 2016, p.63].

With the assistance of attorney David Lane, the Tabor family filed suit in federal court. Lane had previously sued over the deaths of three Colorado jail prisoners: Christopher Lopez at the San Carlos Correctional Facility in Pueblo in June 2014; Zackary Mofitt at the Summit County Justice Center in January 2015; and Jennifer Lobato at the Jefferson County jail in March 2015. The Lopez case settled for $3 million in 2014. 

“Tyler Tabor has a heroin addiction, and he got booked into jail,” said Lane. “The bond was only $300, but Tyler comes from a family that dearly loved him and supported him, and they were afraid that if they bonded him out, he’d just go back on drugs again. So they thought, ‘If we keep him in, he’ll be in a safe environment to detox, and it’ll be his first step to recovery.’

“Instead, he ended up dying, and his family is guilt-stricken. They were thinking they were doing the right things to help him, but instead, they unwittingly put him into the hands of these uncaring incompetents.”

Lane said any medical expense for prisoners at the Adams County jail was viewed as unnecessary. He noted that Tabor had asked for an IV to keep him hydrated and a nurse refused, saying she would not use an IV unless it was absolutely necessary. But by then it was too late.

Tabor’s ordeal was captured on surveillance video, which Lane released as an edited online video after filing the lawsuit. 

The settlement included a $3.7 million payment from Corizon, which provided medical care at the jail, with Adams County paying another $200,000. As part of the agreement, the Tabor family and their attorneys were barred from talking about the case or settlement, or disparaging Corizon. However, the settlement was dislosed in November 2018 when Lane notified the court of Corizon’s failure to pay the agreed amount and filed a motion to enforce. Corizon’s response was that the company had a “cash flow” problem and would have to make the remaining payments in installments, with the final payment being made in February 2019.

At the time, the plaintiffs had yet to even recover the full amount of their attorney fees and costs, which totaled $1,645,021.63. The district court denied the motion to enforce on November 19, 2018, stating, “the Supreme Court [has] held that federal courts ordinarily lack jurisdiction to enforce settlement agreements that arise from and resolve prior federal litigation, unless the court has incorporated the terms of the settlement into its order of dismissal or there is an independent basis for federal jurisdiction. Here, neither party asked the Court to embody the terms of their settlement as part of any order dismissing the claims against Corizon.”

Thus, to enforce the private settlement agreement, the plaintiffs would have to do so by “commencing a new action sounding in contract and paying a new filing fee, not by asking this Court to resolve a dispute that is entirely collateral to the existing action.” See: Estate of Tabor v. Corizon Health, Inc., U.S.D.C. (D. Colo.), Case No. 1:16-cv-01587-MSK-NRN. 

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Sources: denver.cbslocal.com, westword.com, The Appeal

Related legal case

Estate of Tabor v. Corizon Health, Inc.