Wrongful death lawsuits could cost Arizona taxpayers millions - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Wrongful death lawsuits could cost Arizona taxpayers millions

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Two wrongful death cases involving the former contract provider of prison healthcare in Arizona could cost taxpayers millions of dollars.

Wexford Health Sources provided inmate healthcare from July 2012 until March 2013

"I feel they dropped the ball, Wexford did," said Sharon Dixon, whose husband Gary Dixon, 50, died while in Arizona Department of Corrections custody.

Gary Dixon passed away in January after battling Hepatitis C. He was scheduled to be released from prison in 2017.

When Wexford took over inmate care last year, Sharon Dixon says her husband saw a decline in medical responsiveness.

"He'd send me letters stating they stopped his medicine, three crucial medications," said Sharon Dixon.

Sharon Dixon hired attorney Amy Pokora of Lewis and Pokora to bring a claim of wrongful death against Wexford and the state Department of Corrections.

"What's unique about this case is we have Gary's notes from when he was denied medications and treatment, and it's almost like notes from the grave," said Pokora.

Included in the legal documents are more than a hundred pages of medical request forms documented by Gary Dixon while behind bars. Those documents show a pattern of declining health and concerns about treatment.

"But if he would have had his medicine like he was supposed to, I do feel in my heart he would still be here," said Sharon Dixon.

Sharon Dixon is not the only widow claiming Wexford provided substandard care.

CBS5 reported on a case involving Lewis Prison inmate Tony Brown in October 2012.

His widow, Jami, has also brought a wrongful death case against Wexford after her husband died from what the State Medical Examiner's office called "natural causes."

"Yeah, nothing natural about a 42-year-old man that laid there for three days, four days and died slowly. There's nothing natural about that," said Jami Brown.

The lawsuit claims:

"Tony died a painful, torturous and barbaric premature death."

"... (staff) denied Tony medication he was prescribed, ignored obvious signs of a serious skull fracture and at one point refused to so much as examine Tony."

A multi-year contract was terminated by mutual agreement between Arizona and Wexford after only seven months.

The Phoenix ACLU is litigating a class-action lawsuit against the Arizona Department of Corrections for providing "abysmal care."

Sharon Dixon knows she won't get her husband back, but she said she believes she can still get justice.

"I understand they're in there for a reason, but you know what, they're still human," said Sharon Dixon. "I don't want another family to have to experience what I went through."

CBS5 found 73 federal court cases in Arizona listing Wexford Health Solutions as a defendant, 26 filed by one inmate.

Aside from Sharon Dixon and Jami Brown, three other civil cases in state court were filed against Wexford, each from currently incarcerated inmates.

CBS5 contacted the Arizona Department of Corrections for this report. The department as a policy does not comment on pending lawsuits.

Phone calls and an email to Wexford Health Sources headquarters in Pittsburgh were not returned.

An earlier version of this story stated the ACLU class-action lawsuit named Wexford specifically. The Arizona Department of Corrections, which contracted with Wexford, is the defendant in the lawsuit.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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