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Alabama NaphCare hit with $27 million verdict for prison death

The verdict, from a Washington jury, was in response to the death of a 55-year-old woman.

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Alabama-based NaphCare was hit last week with a $27 million verdict for its role in the 2018 prison death of a 55-year-old woman at the Spokane County (Washington) jail. 

Cindy Lou Hill arrived at the Spokane Jail in August 2018, on heroin possession charges. On her fourth day at the jail, Hill was found shirtless and on a cell floor in pain. A NaphCare nurse examined Hill quickly and determined she was suffering from heroin withdrawals. Hill was sent to a medical cell instead of a hospital. 

She died hours later of an infection caused by a ruptured intestine. 

Hill’s family sued the county and NaphCare, alleging that had she received adequate care her life would have been saved. The jury agreed, awarding Hill’s family $26.5 million from NaphCare and $275,000 from Spokane County 

The family’s attorney, Ed Budge, called it the right decision and said the jury wanted to send NaphCare a message. 

The company has received jury messages before. 

NaphCare, founded in 1989 and headquartered in Birmingham, has been the defendant in a number of lawsuits related to its care of incarcerated people across the country. It has prison contracts in more than half the U.S. states and has been sued in most of them. 

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That includes Alabama, where it provided health care services at Limestone Correctional from the early 1990s until 2003. The state ended that contract following a state audit that found egregious examples of substandard – or “extremely poor quality” – care. That decision, which the company contested and sued the state for libel, gave NaphCare the dubious distinction of being too dangerous for perhaps the country’s deadliest state prisons. (Alabama routinely has one of the nation’s highest per capita prison death rates.)

NaphCare also was forced to pay nearly $700,000 last year to settle claims that it submitted fraudulent claims to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The federal government alleged the company knowingly and repeatedly over-charged for physician services at prisons in Indiana and California. 

The company said it plans to appeal the Spokane County verdict.

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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