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$72,000 Settlement Over Corizon’s Lack of Medical Treatment to Injured Arizona Prisoner

by Matt Clarke

On August 8, 2020, Corizon Health, Inc. agreed to pay $20,000 to settle its part of a federal lawsuit brought by an Arizona prisoner who suffered a partial foot amputation after Corizon delayed effective medical treatment.

Arizona state prisoner Edmund V. Powers fell 60 to 80 feet, suffering severe injuries which included a broken spine, ten broken ribs, a broken left hip, and a “shattered” pelvis and left foot. He underwent multiple surgeries and physical therapy, relearning to walk with the assistance of an elevated left shoe, a brace and a cane. An Arizona Department of Corrections (DOC) physician determined that he was “disabled” and issued a special needs order (SNO) that he was subject to modified work duties which were not a direct threat to his health and safety. Following additional surgeries, he was in a wheelchair for months, then approved to use a wheelchair for long distances.

A specialist reviewed an MRI of Powers and recommended a custom lift boot and restriction to partial weight bearing for four weeks while Powers awaited additional surgery. Both Registered Nurse Kelly Rogers and Nurse Practitioner Carrie Smalley had notice of the recommendations, but refused to modify the SNO.

The next day, Powers was ordered to work in the kitchen. He showed supervising guard D. Alvarado the SNO. Alvarado took the cane when Powers was working even after Powers told Alvarado he needed it for balance and it was painful for him to walk without the cane. Alvarado assigned Powers duties that included lifting heavy buckets and pallets and loading a trash compactor.

After about ten days working in the kitchen, Alvarado told Powers to use a squeegee taped to the end of a wooden stick to clear ankle-deep water from the flooded prisoners’ dining area. Powers objected, but Alvarado ordered him to do the job. Powers slipped, fell, and was injured.

Prison medical staff examined Powers and sent him to his cell where he spent the night in pain. He could see the skin graft was torn. His pelvis was x-rayed the next day, but Smalley denied his request to x-ray his foot, citing Corizon’s cost-reduction policies.

Nearly two months later, a “deep bone infection” was discovered during surgery. The infection had not been present before the fall in the kitchen. The surgeon ordered an infectious disease consult.

Corizon officials delayed the consult for nearly two months, treating Powers with ineffective antibiotics instead. At the consult, an MRI was ordered within seven days. Corizon took a month to have the MRI done. It showed severe damage caused by an advanced infection. It took another month for Corizon to have a biopsy performed confirming the infection.

Ultimately, Powers suffered amputation of the fourth and fifth metatarsal bones in his foot. He filed a pro se federal civil rights lawsuit against DOC officials, Corizon and Corizon employees.

After the court refused to dismiss several of the claims, Corizon settled their part of the lawsuit for $20,000. On September 24, 2020, defendants Daniel Alvarado, Rebecca Fleis, and Richard Ochoa reached a settlement with Powers, agreeing to pay him $52,500, but admitting no wrongdoing. See: Powers v. Alvarado, USDC, D. AZ, Case No. 2:19-cv-00310-GMS. 


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Related legal case

Powers v. Alvarado