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$8.6 Million Award Against Wexford for Deliberate Indifference to Prisoner’s Kidney Cancer

An Illinois prisoner was awarded $11 million by a federal jury in a lawsuit alleging doctors with Wexford Health Sources, Inc. (Wexford), were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs by failing to treat his kidney cancer. The Court also awarded $667,201.45 in attorney fees and costs.

The award was the result of a December 2019 jury trial in which the jury found Wexford, Dr. Abdur Nawoor, and Dr. Rebecca Einwohner failed to act reasonably when William Kent Dean, a prisoner at Taylorville Correctional Center presented that he had painless blood in his urine. Dean pursued, with the assistance of pro bono counsel, claims arising from alleged delays in the diagnosis and treatment of his kidney cancer.

The jury awarded Dean $100,000 for physical pain and suffering, $500,000 for emotional pain and suffering, $100,000 for disability and loss of normal life/diminished life expectancy, and $300,000 for future medical care and supplies. It also awarded $10 million in punitive damages to punish Wexford for its reprehensible conduct..

In reviewing the Defendants’ motion for judgment in their favor or a new trial or to reduce damages and a set off, the district court said in a September 28, 2020, order that the jury heard testimony that allowed it to conclude the only acceptable medical approach for a patient like Dean was a CT scan to rule out cancer. This was not done for months after Dean presented with “gross, painless hematuria.” Dean’s pleas for help were met with indifference. The court, therefore, found the jury’s compensatory damages awards totaling $1 million was warranted.

It, however, granted remittitur of the punitive damages award. The court found that award was excessive. It remitted that award to $7 million. “This award recognized the reprehensibility of Wexford’s conduct and the harm Plaintiff suffered, should be sufficient to deter future similar conduct, and also stays within the bounds of due process,” the court wrote. The court ignored that Wexford as a for profit medical company only cares about its bottom line and its business model is based on providing as little medical care to prisoners as possible while bilking the government out of as much money as possible.

The court denied a set off of $10,000, which the is the amount an Illinois Department of Corrections employee settled for before trial. The court found the defendants failed to meet the burden for a set off.

Dean’s motion for attorney fees and costs was granted. It awarded $602,786.25 in attorney/paralegal fees and $31,077.53 in expenses. This amount was less than 25% of the jury award, so it was ordered to be paid from that award under the PLRA. An award to $33,337.67 for a bill of costs was also granted. Dean was represented byWilliam Strom and Joel Pelz with Jenner Block and Craig Martin and Chloe Holt with Wilkie Farr & Gallagher. See: Dean v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 200112. 

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Related legal case

Dean v. Wexford Health Sources, Inc.