Two years ago, Kenny Williams died at Monroe Correctional Complex after an excruciating battle with cancer that went untreated despite his repeated pleas to the state Department of Corrections.

His case has been cited by a state watchdog report as a strikingly egregious example of the DOC’s repeated failures to provide lifesaving health care for people locked up in state prisons.

Now, Williams’ family is suing the DOC in King County Superior Court, alleging “systemic negligence” led to his suffering and death — and seeking $10 million in damages.

“We’re filing it for justice for Kenny,” said Dee Johnson, Williams’ widow, in an interview. “If we don’t accomplish anything else, we’re hoping no one else has to go through this pain and suffering.”

A DOC spokesperson said the agency does not comment on pending litigation, but pointed to systemwide health care policy and training changes the department has made since Williams’ death. The agency also received a $39 million boost for its health care staff and services in the budget recently passed by the state Legislature.

Williams, 63, died in June 2019 of breast cancer that had metastasized into his bones after DOC failed to provide chemotherapy that could have saved his life.

“On paper, this is one of the worst cases of medical neglect that we have ever seen,” said Johnson’s attorney, Ed Budge, whose Seattle law firm, Budge & Heipt, specializes in wrongful prison and jail deaths.

“Mr. Williams’ death was not the result of a good-faith error in judgment by a well-meaning medical provider. Rather, it was the result of systemic negligence that permeated the DOC healthcare system, causing many patients with life-threatening illnesses to suffer,” the lawsuit alleges.

His treatment — or lack thereof — was documented in a scathing November 2019 report by the Office of the Corrections Ombuds, which investigates complaints by incarcerated people and their families.

That report described how efforts by Williams and his family to get his cancer diagnosed and treated were met with delays and an indifferent bureaucracy. Many of its findings are echoed in the new lawsuit.

Williams was a talented guitarist and songwriter, playing his Fender Stratocaster in bands including Crazy Texas Gypsies, opening for acts such as ZZ Top and Delbert McClinton.

He entered prison after pleading guilty in 2016 to two counts of second-degree assault for shooting a man after a night of drinking in Kent. He had been scheduled for release this fall.

But Williams had the misfortune to fall ill with cancer in a state prison system that has been faulted in multiple ombuds office investigations for failing to adequately care for people with cancer and other serious diseases.

In March 2018, a nurse discovered a lump underneath the skin of Williams’ left nipple. But the nurse and other prison medical staff did not follow up or schedule further evaluation.

Within three months, Williams, who had a family history of cancer, was reporting knifelike pain stabbing into his left breast. A DOC medical staffer, alarmed at the growing mass, said Williams needed “urgent” scans, including a mammogram and ultrasound, the lawsuit says. But the scans didn’t happen for more than a month.