On March 6, 2008, prisoners confined in Ely State Prison ("ESP") filed a civil rights class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the state of Nevada. The plaintiffs, represented by the National Prison Project of the ACLU, the ACLU of ...
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On March 6, 2008, prisoners confined in Ely State Prison ("ESP") filed a civil rights class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the state of Nevada. The plaintiffs, represented by the National Prison Project of the ACLU, the ACLU of Nevada, and private counsel, alleged that the state provided inadequate medical care to prisoners at ESP. Plaintiffs claimed that a pervasive pattern of grossly inadequate medical care at ESP created a substantial risk of serious medical harm for each of the prison's 1,000 prisoners, in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Specifically, they alleged that ESP lacked ready access to medical care, a medical staff competent to examine prisoners and diagnose illnesses, adequate and up-to-date medical record-keeping, and adequate procedures for responding to emergencies. As a result, plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief, compensatory and punitive damages, and class certification.
Prior to filing suit, the National Prison Project retained Dr. William Noel to investigate the alleged deficiencies of medical care at ESP. Dr. Noel reviewed the medical records of 35 prisoners and was allowed to speak to some of the prisoners when he visited ESP to discuss his findings with the prison Medical Director. Dr. Noel issued a detailed report in which he called the pattern of medical abuse at ESP "the grossest possible medical malpractice, and the most shocking and callous disregard for human life and human suffering, that I have ever encountered in the medical profession in my thirty-five years of practice." In early December 2007, the ACLU sent the report to the Governor of Nevada and the Director of Nevada's Department of Corrections. The ACLU also proposed a Consent Decree to avoid litigation and to improve the health care administered to prisoners at ESP. Prison officials refused to enter into the Consent Decree and this lawsuit followed.
On March 31, 2009, Judge Larry R. Hicks granted the plaintiffs' motion to certify a class. 2009 WL 910971. The class was defined as "all prisons who are now, or in the future will be, in the custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections at Ely State Prison in Ely, Nevada." Settlement discussions began in January 2010 before Magistrate Judge Valerie P. Cooke and the parties jointly moved to approve the proposed settlement agreement on July 15, 2010. The parties also submitted a proposed Class Notice of Settlement, which the court approved on July 28, 2010.
The proposed settlement was extensive, addressing medications, chronic care, sick call, intra-system transfers and assessments, and scheduled off-site services and infirmary care. The agreement called for a two-year appointment of an expert medical monitor to inspect ESP three months after the agreement was finalized and every six months thereafter to evaluate defendants' compliance with the terms of the agreement. Judge Hicks approved the proposed settlement on October 27, 2010. 2010 WL 4366012. The plaintiffs' motion for attorney's fees and costs was also granted and the action was dismissed with prejudice. Kristen Sagar - 04/06/2009
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