Armor Correctional Health Services, the Miami-base medical provider embroiled in a lawsuit in Broward County, has been hit with another suit. This time, the legal action was filed in Sarasota County. Like the Broward case, it alleges that Armor staff failed to give proper medical attention to an inmate in need. This time, however, the experience culminated in a hellish situation in which the inmate allegedly was left paralyzed in a jail corridor, covered in his own piss and shit, for more than two hours while jail staff and health providers went about their business.
In April 2014, Christopher Datta, age 22, was taken into custody at the Sarasota County jail after a probation violation. A year earlier, Datta had also been admitted to the facility after an arrest for marijuana and Xanax possession. From that previous stay, Datta had told prison staff about his medical conditions, a "history of spinal stenosis and herniated/bulging discs in his lower back with sciatica," so says the lawsuit. At a medical evaluation during the April 2014 intake, the facility's staff again noted his problems.
But a few days into his stay, Datta began to feel more back pain than usual: "When he would lie down, sharp pain would shoot down from his lower back into his right buttock and right leg." When he asked a correctional officer if he could be taken to the infirmary, he was told he'd have to wait because he wasn't suffering a seizure or heart attack.
Two hours later, his condition had deteriorated to the point that he needed the help of correctional officers to get down the stairs and into a wheelchair to go to the infirmary. But the nurse who saw Datta wouldn't send him to the hospital. Instead, she gave him hot towels for his pain and sent him back to the general population, according to the lawsuit.
A doctor did not evaluate Datta. Jail guards refused his request to go back to the infirmary when his pain increased. By the morning of April 18, he collapsed on the way to the shower. Other inmates had to prop him up with a chair under the showerhead so he could bathe.
The pain increased. By the time he was next seen by medical staff in the infirmary, Datta reported he "could not feel anything from his waist to his feet other than an extremely painful burning sensation in his legs, that he tried to use the bathroom but was unable to make himself go, and that he could not put any pressure on his legs and could not walk."
Still, the facility doctor did not come in to evaluate Datta. Eventually, it got to the point that he was screaming in pain from his cell. Instead of providing more treatment, staff placed Datta in a "special management cell, which was a concrete room with doors made of steel between the cell and the hallway, so he and the other nurses and officers did not have to listen to Mr. Datta screaming for medical attention." Eventually, he screamed and banged on the walls until he passed out.
The next day, Datta was again evaluated by nurses -- but no doctor. That day, he couldn't move on his own and hadn't had a bowel movement in days. When he finally had the urge, he asked for the nurse's help in getting from his wheelchair to the bathroom. She allegedly told him to go on his own.
While trying to get there, Datta collapsed on the hallway floor, where he urinated and defecated on himself. He was allegedly left there in his own filth for two hours. At one point, someone slid a mat under him. Someone cut off his dirty pants and gave him a towel. He was "harassed, taunted, and embarrassed," the lawsuit says. "Female inmates were walked by the cell and were able to view him as he law there on the floor exposed and covered in urine and stool [sic]."
Again, when Datta asked to be taken to the hospital, his request was denied. Eventually, the jail doctor examined Datta -- only once in his stay between April 11 and April 23. On the latter date, Datta had a court appearance. He was released on house arrest but was allowed to visit the hospital first. "The officers at the Jail would not arrange for him to be transported to a hospital," the lawsuit claims, "so he wheeled himself to a payphone outside of the Jail and called an ambulance."
At the hospital, doctors determined Datta needed emergency surgery on his back. The inmate's suit claims that today he has "permanent and profound neurological deficits" due to the alleged delay in treatment at the jail. These include "saddle paresthesia, bowel and bladder dysfunction, inability to obtain an erection, bilateral weakness in his lower extremities, and decreased sensation and tingling in his lower extremities."
Dude was only 22.
The lawsuit goes on to make a bigger claim: that Armor's Sarasota staff are "encouraged not to send inmates to the hospital for emergency medical services and to delay sending inmates to the hospital for emergency medical."
Datta is suing Armor and the company's staff for deprivation of civil rights and malpractice.
In the Sarasota Herald Tribune, Armor released the following statement about the case:
"Armor Correctional Health Services' policy is to strictly adhere to medical protocols for individual situations, diagnoses, and incidents. Due to Federal HIPAA regulations and out of respect for patients, family, and others allegedly involved, we do not comment specifically on the patient's case, but our medical records certainly do not confirm what is alleged.
"Armor's team of dedicated health-care providers has extensive experience in providing correctional health care and has consistently provided a high level of health care to individuals facing a wide array of medical issues."
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