On July 25, 2022, a settlement was reached between Corizon Health, Inc. and an Arizona prisoner to whom it allegedly denied eye care, resulting in partial vision loss. Under the agreement, the firm owes $100,000 to Kevin Campbell, inclusive of legal costs and fees.
One of the nation’s largest for-profit providers of medical care in prisons and jails, Corizon Health grew a reputation for delaying or denying care to save money—something that Campbell learned firsthand beginning in May 2017, when he sought treatment for failing vision in his right eye. At the time, Corizon Heath was contracted to provide healthcare for the Arizona Department of Corrections (DOC).
Campbell, who was already mostly blind in his other eye, wrote in a Health Needs Request (HNR) that the vision in his right eye was “like a heavy dust cloud is obstructing my eyesight.” Almost two months later, after repeated HNRs, he saw a Corizon Health nurse practitioner, who submitted an ophthalmology request.
A prison optometrist finally saw Campbell on August 7, 2017; the following day he was taken to an off-site ophthalmologist who diagnosed a detached retina in the right eye and retinal artery occlusion in the left, as well as cataracts. Surgery was performed later that month. The surgeon, Dr. Calonje, reportedly told Campbell the delay in treatment had “allowed the retina to completely detach” and resulted in preventable vision loss.
Campbell was scheduled for a two-week follow-up, but it did not occur until six weeks later, when Dr. Calonje noted Campbell had developed a “mature cataract in his right eye and was blind in his left eye.”
In January 2018, Campbell was seen by an ophthalmologist for cataract surgery, which was performed that same month. At another appointment four months later, Campbell was prescribed eyeglasses to help correct his extremely poor vision; after filing several more HNRs, he eventually received the glasses on June 28, 2018.
Campbell then filed suit in federal court for the District of Arizona, raising a claim under the Eighth Amendment that Defendants—including Corizon Health, medical staff and DOC’s director—were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical need. After Defendants moved for summary judgment, the district court found that most were either not responsible for the delay in care or had been sued only in their official capacities and were not subject to injunctive relief. They were dismissed from the suit, as was Centurion Healthcare—which had replaced Corizon Health in June 2019 as DOC’s private medical provider—since there was no evidence Centurion Healthcare had delayed or denied Campbell’s treatment.
With respect to Corizon Health, Campbell argued the company had a custom or practice of delaying medical care with a policy of requiring prisoners to see a provider before they could be seen by an optometrist—and that he suffered worse vision as a result. The Court agreed that “a reasonable juror could find that Dr. Calonje’s statements regarding the harmful effects of the delays in Plaintiff’s treatment, coupled with Plaintiff’s documented loss of vision … shows that the delays in treatment amounted to an Eighth Amendment violation.”
Because there were disputed issues of material fact as to whether Corizon Health had a policy or custom of delaying medical care, the motion for summary judgment was denied as to the firm but granted to the other defendants on September 24, 2020. The case settled almost two years later, with a payment inclusive of fees and costs for Campbell’s Tucson attorney, Stacey E. Scheff. See: Campbell v. Corizon Health, Inc., USDC (D. Ariz.), Case No. 4:18-cv-00146.
Meanwhile Corizon Health split into two firms, one called YesCare that is thriving with the firm’s prison healthcare contracts and another called Tehum Care Services, Inc. which is saddled with Corizon Health’s liabilities and has filed for bankruptcy protection—threatening payouts like the one to Campbell, as PLN has reported. [See: PLN, Aug. 2023, p.35.]
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Related legal case
Campbell v. Corizon Health, Inc.
|USDC (D. Ariz.), Case No. 4:18-cv-00146