In our April 2013 cover story, Joel Warner wrote about Ken McGill, who had filed a lawsuit against Jefferson County for what he saw as shabby care after he suffered a stroke while incarcerated. A jury has now agreed and awarded McGill $11 million. Continue for the details, plus a video and original documents.
Attorney Erica Grossman of Holland, Holland Edwards & Grossman, co-counsel for McGill, synopsizes the events of September 2012, when McGill, who'd been incarcerated in the Jefferson County Detention Facility since the previous July for driving under the influence, began feeling ill.
"Mr. McGill had a stroke in jail at approximately 8 p.m.," Grossman says. "He called his wife about 8:30 and everyone around him was recognizing stroke symptoms. He had facial droops and his whole right side was weak. But there was a delay in treatment, and he didn't get to the hospital for over sixteen hours. He spent the night in a cell instead of the hospital, knowing he was having a stroke and that he was being ignored by correctional office staff."
The result for McGill was what appear to be permanent disabilities.
"He can drive and he can walk and he can exist," Grossman notes. "He doesn't look like the stereotypical person who's had a stroke. But he can't work and he can't make a living. He was earning $65,000 a year as a construction-project estimator and now he can only do menial filing tasks for about three hours at a time. He's constantly dizzy, can't multitask, has cognitive problems and right-side weakness."
Grossman believes that because of McGill's relative youth (he's 46), he likely would have avoided most if not all these complications if he'd received immediate care.
"Doctors would say it's more likely he would have had a better outcome," she allows. "Many people who have these factors going for them recover fully enough that they can go back to work. But that's not what happened for Mr. McGill."
The first defendant named in the lawsuit filed by McGill is Correctional Healthcare Companies, the firm with which Jefferson County contracted to tend to the medical needs of inmates. CHC has been the target of other complaints in Colorado and across the country, and Grossman charges it with "allowing nurses to practice way outside of their scope and to be very suspicious of inmate complaints -- to assume they're faking it and ignore serious medical conditions, partly motivated by their own bottom line."
When asked if the $11 million award will resonate beyond McGill's case, Grossman replies, "As an optimist, I certainly hope so. I think this type of verdict shows it would be cheaper to provide good, decent care rather than having to go to court and defend lawsuits. The cost of doing business should be going toward care, not going to court. So I'm hoping this verdict will cause some changes in policy and custom to be implemented. Bad medical care isn't supposed to be part of the punishment we impose on people when we send them to prison and jail."
She adds that "I'm thrilled Ken McGill has finally had justice after two years of fighting for it. He and his family deserve this. At a time when abuses of justice are so prevalent, I'm very proud to live in Colorado, where the citizens are saying this kind of abuse of power is wrong and you can't do this to people. "
Here's a CBS4 report about the award, followed by McGill's lawsuit and the jury verdict form.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.