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Connecticut Prisoners Win Lawsuit After Hepatitis Exposure

In May 2019, a final settlement agreement was approved for 15 prisoners who were exposed to Hepatitis C when a Correctional Managed Health Care (CMHC) nurse at MacDougall-Walker State Prison in Suffield, Connecticut, used the same needle to inject insulin to multiple diabetic patients, refilling the syringe from a common-use vial.

The first prisoner injected was also a Hepatitis C patient, sparking the contagion fears. The incident occurred in summer 2013; settlement payments ranged from $750 to $2,000 per prisoner claimant.

The Connecticut Department of Corrections (CDOC) and UConn Health — the University of Connecticut branch that operates CMHC — sent letters to all possibly effected prisoners, urging them to seek blood tests for possible contagion. The general UConn Health notice stated “The transmission of HIV or Hepatitis B is unlikely. There is still concern for the transmission of Hepatitis C.”

CDOC spokesperson Karen Martucci placed the blame on the negligence of a single UConn Health nurse while denying allegations by the prisoners of system-wide problems with the health care provider. The nurse, who was working a double shift at the time of the incident, has since resigned. An investigation of the incident was jointly conducted by the CDOC, UConn Health and the state Department of Public Health.

Plaintiffs had originally sought as much as $1 million each in damages. Attorney Peter Bowman, who represented four of the plaintiffs, stated the prisoners who filed suit were not just seeking money but positive changes to health care within the CDOC. “This is what litigation is for,” he said. “The health care system has some flaws. We’re hoping this litigation will hopefully bring better health care to everyone.”

A number of other prisoners have filed legal cases about poor care at CDOC facilities. In 2018, one female prisoner gave birth in her cell. CDOC spokespersons blamed this on a failure to communicate between CMHC and CDOC.

In 2017, one soon to be released prisoner died of larynx cancer after CMHC doctors and nurse practitioners had long diagnosed him as having acid reflux. Another prisoner who claimed his cancer was not treated in a timely fashion settled a lawsuit against CDOC in August 2019 for $1.3 million. 



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