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$150,000 Class-Action Settlement Reached Over Massive Scabies Outbreak at CoreCivic Tennessee Jail

by Jacob Barrett

CoreCivic, the nation’s second-largest for-profit private prison operator, settled a class-action suit filed by former prisoners at the company’s Metro-Davidson County Detention Facility (MDDF) in Nashville on November 30, 2021. After deductions for costs and attorney’s fees, the $150,000 settlement fund provided payouts to each class member of approximately $3,591 to compensate them for allegedly inadequate medical treatment and retaliation they suffered during a scabies outbreak at the jail in 2017. [See: PLN, Mar. 2018, p.58.]

In January 2017, one of the named plaintiffs and class representatives, Wendy Snead, was infected with the parasitic mite after guards transferred another prisoner into her eight-person cell. The newcomer had already complained to guards about a “rash.” A prisoner who was a trained nurse and being held in the same cell identified the rash as scabies, but guards ignored pleas for treatment, Snead alleged in the lawsuit she filed.

By May 2017, the parasite spread through the jail like wildfire. Guards threatened to put prisoners in solitary for asking for treatment or if they mentioned the outbreak to family members. Snead managed to tell her family that she needed to see a doctor, and they informed Metro Health Department (MHD) officials.

With hundreds of prisoners infected, scabies also spread to attorneys and staff at Nashville’s courthouse, delaying court hearings and a murder trial. At least 16 staffers from the district attorney’s office and the court sought treatment for scabies after contact with prisoners.

Snead was eventually seen by an outside physician who treated her, but she alleged in her complaint that guards retaliated against her “by refusing to fill her prescription and placing her in solitary confinement without food or a mattress.”

After her release from MDDF, Snead filed a suit for damages in federal court for the Middle District of Tennessee on June 17, 2017, with the aid of Nashville attorneys Bryant B. Kroll and W. Gary Blackburn of the Blackburn Firm PLLC, as well as Jeffrey S. Roberts of Jeffrey S. Roberts and Associates, PLC, and R. Joshua McKee of the McKee Law Firm.

The attorneys filed a separate suit on the same day on behalf of another putative class represented by an unnamed “Doe” plaintiff, which was merged with Snead’s case on September 27, 2017. See: Doe v. CoreCivic of Tennessee, LLC, USDC (M.D. Tenn.), Case No. 3:17-cv-00958.

A month later, the suit added another former prisoner, Edward Moredock, as a named plaintiff in a First Amended Class-Action Complaint filed on October 27, 2017. The case then proceeded to a ruling by the Court on June 27, 2018, certifying a “Scabies Class” that included “all former inmates of [MDDF], who are currently not incarcerated and who suffered a skin rash consistent with a scabies infestation while confined at [MDDF] and were denied treatment or whose delayed treatment by the defendant caused their condition to worsen, since October 1, 2016.” See: Snead v. CoreCivic of Tenn., LLC, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 108391 (M.D. Tenn.).

Nearly two years later, after discovery was complete and the number of class members had reached only the teens, CoreCivic attempted to have the class decertified for failure to meet the numerosity requirement of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a). But the Court rejected that argument and denied the motion on April 6, 2020. See: Snead v. CoreCivic of Tenn., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 206233 (M.D. Tenn.).

The case was scheduled for trial in the spring of 2020, but that was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile CoreCivic handed off management of MDDF to Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall that fall. The parties then proceeded to reach their settlement agreement in early 2021, and the Court granted preliminary approval in August of that year before giving its final approval and dismissing the suit in November.

Under the settlement, CoreCivic agreed to pay $150,000 inclusive of attorney fees. Snead and Moredock, the class representatives, split $5,000 “as an incentive award in consideration of their work with Plaintiffs’ counsel, [and their] willingness to serve as Class Representatives.” $60,000 went to lead class counsel, the Blackburn Firm, which was also reimbursed another $9,587.50 in costs. The remaining amount, $75,412.50, was divided equally among Snead, Moredock and 19 other class members who filed claims. See: Snead v. Corecivic of Tenn., USDC (M.D. Tenn.), Case No. 3:17-cv-00949. 


Additional source: Tennessean


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Related legal case

Snead v. Corecivic of Tenn.