Inmate’s Toe Amputated Due to Alleged Negligence by Lackawanna County Prison Medical Staff, Lawsuit Claims

SCRANTON, Pa. — A man incarcerated at Lackawanna County Prison in Pennsylvania has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that he received inadequate medical care, resulting in the amputation of his toe. Ryan Curtis, 38, claims that during his weeklong pretrial incarceration in 2022, medical staff from the prison’s healthcare provider, Wellpath LLC, neglected his pleas for help. Instead of providing appropriate medical attention, the staff allegedly told Curtis to wash his infected wound in the jail cell’s sink and prescribed antibiotics that did not effectively treat the bacterial infection.

According to Curtis’s attorney, Barry Dyller, who represents several inmates in similar lawsuits, the lack of adequate medical care in the prison is a prevalent issue. He asserts that inmates’ complaints are often ignored until it is too late, resulting in serious health consequences, as in the case of Curtis losing his toe.

Last month, Curtis filed a federal lawsuit against Lackawanna County, Wellpath, several nurses, correctional officers, and a doctor. The lawsuit seeks damages on charges of negligence and denial of medical care. Representatives for Wellpath and the county have not yet provided a comment on the matter.

Curtis’s ordeal began when he was arrested on drug-related charges in February 2022. Due to a painful blister on his toe, he was taken to Geisinger Community Medical Center in Scranton, where doctors determined that his toe was infected. They sent a wound culture for analysis, provided Curtis with a prescription for clindamycin, an oral antibiotic, and discharged him.

Unfortunately, Curtis was unable to post bail and was incarcerated at Lackawanna County Jail. Over the course of the week, his infection worsened, and he blames the negligence of the jail staff for the deterioration of his health. Despite the antibiotic prescription, the lawsuit alleges that the staff failed to follow up on the lab results, which indicated that the bacteria causing the infection was resistant to the prescribed treatment.

As Curtis’s condition deteriorated further, he was finally returned to the hospital, where he had to undergo the amputation of his toe in February 2022. Just three days after the surgery, Curtis’s bail was changed to an unsecured amount, allowing him to leave the jail. The reason for the change was his entry into pre-trial services, as stated in a court filing.

Curtis’s lawsuit against Wellpath is not the first of its kind. Dyller & Solomon, his attorney’s firm, has previously filed suits against the nation’s largest prison health contractor on behalf of other individuals who have experienced similar issues. Lackawanna County and Luzerne County are among Wellpath’s clients, and their contracts with the company are set to last until 2025 and 2026, respectively.

These lawsuits shed light on the concerning state of healthcare in prisons across the country. In December 2022, the estate of Mary E. Balliet filed a suit alleging the complicity of Wellpath and Luzerne County Correctional Facility staff in her physical deterioration and death. Another case involved Luzerne County agreeing to pay a $780,000 settlement to the estate of a woman who died by suicide in the county jail after her distress was not taken seriously by healthcare workers and correctional officers.

Amid increasing scrutiny, a group of Democratic U.S. senators recently posed questions to Wellpath and its private equity owner, H.I.G Capital, regarding their operations. The senators cited numerous complaints against Wellpath, including denial of care, negligent care, and inadequate staffing.

Curtis’s lawsuit underscores the urgent need to address the issues surrounding medical care in prisons. The prison system must ensure that inmates receive appropriate and timely medical attention to prevent further harm. Lackawanna County, Wellpath, and the individuals named in the lawsuit must now address the allegations and provide a suitable response to these serious concerns.