KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kevin Strickland, who was wrongfully imprisoned for 43 years, is suing Missouri's contracted medical provider for the prison system for depriving him of essential medical care.
Attorneys for Strickland filed a federal lawsuit against Corizon LLC, a private prison health-care contractor, and four Corizon employees for damages related to his medical care while in prison.
The lawsuit alleges that, while Strickland was confined to Crossroads Correctional Center and the Western Missouri Correctional Center, "he was denied timely access to adequate and competent medical care for evaluation and treatment of serious medical conditions."
"Missouri's contracted medical provider, Defendant Corizon, added to (Strickland's) suffering by depriving him of essential medical care for an obvious and serious medical condition" the lawsuit said. "That deprivation of constitutionally required medical care resulted in (Strickland) losing much of his mobility and now having to use a wheelchair."
While Strickland was in prison, Corizon was under contract with the Missouri Department of Corrections to provide health care services for all inmates confined in state-run correctional facilities.
Strickland was diagnosed in February 2017 with musculoligamentous back pain and possible mild tight hamstring syndrome. The doctor recommended a low stress/low impact activity, exercise and Capsaicin cream.
At a follow-up appointment in May, Strickland said he had difficulty walking from the housing unit to the dining room and said the pain and numbness was getting worse. The doctor prescribed the same regimen as well as an antidepressant.
Strickland had another follow-up appointment on June 15, 2017, during which the doctor saw no improvement in his condition and upped his dosage of the antidepressant.
Strickland then had two self-declared emergencies on July 13, 2017.
During the first emergency, Strickland complained of worsening pain and numbness in his lower back and legs that made it hard for him to walk.
"His condition was determined not to be emergent and he was instructed to follow the MSR (Medical Services Request) process," the lawsuit said.
Later that day, Strickland had another self-declared emergency and was taken to the Medical Unit in a wheelchair because he was unable to walk.
"Although his condition was determined to be a medical emergency, the nurse noted that he had not declared an emergency within the previous 72 hours and that she would contact the on-call physician, who ordered a Toradol injection," the lawsuit said. "Strickland was returned to his Housing Unit and instructed to return to Medical if his symptoms worsened."
Two days later on July 15, Strickland had another self-declared emergency because of pain in his back and numbness and tingling in his legs. The nurse noted that Strickland could not bend over and that he had limited ability to perform "activities of daily living."
Strickland was given another Toradol injection and was told to return if his symptoms worsened. He was also diagnosed Sept. 14, 2017, with paresthesia, a burning or tingling sensation usually in a person's extremities, in his legs.
Clinical personnel at the Western Missouri Correctional Center, or WMCC, were not able to provide all medical treatments on-site, so Strickland asked for a referral request for an electromyography test by an off-site specialist on Nov. 24, 2017.
The physician's notes said that he had him stand in the exam room. Strickland said after four minutes the pins and needles sensation became so severe that he needed to sit down.
The referral request was denied.
Strickland again asked for a referral request on Dec. 7, 2017, for an MRI to rule out spinal stenosis. That request was denied because "advanced imaging should be reserved for cases that do not respond to conservative management."
Eventually, Strickland was issued a ground floor/lower bunk, handicap shower use and a wheelchair with a pusher on Jan. 12, 2018. He was also prescribed an opioid for the pain.
"The same patterns of denial and deferral of off-site evaluation and specialty care for Strickland’s severe back pain and numbness in his lower extremities in favor of site-based conservative treatment modalities and alternate treatment plans not only persisted throughout 2018-2021, but they also rendered him unable to ambulate independently or perform ADLs (activities of daily living) as he did before his condition was allowed to deteriorate," the lawsuit said. "These patterns also culminated in multiple related grievances that Strickland waged from Informal Resolution Request ('IRR') to Grievance Appeal."
The lawsuit alleges that Corizon's policies and practices resulted in a "deliberate and systemic disregard" for all inmates health and safety and were the main reason for Strickland's injuries.
The lawsuit also said that there is a "widespread pattern of official misconduct" that shows a "deliberate indifference to the health and safety of all inmates confined to the WMCC."
The lawsuit details four alleged violations of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution — deliberate indifference to serious medical need and failure to provide medical care and treatment; failure to train/inadequate training; failure to supervise, direct and control/inadequate supervision, direction and control; and deliberate indifference to serious medical need and failure to provide medical care and treatment.
The attorneys who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Strickland are asking for a jury trial in the case.