Washington state will pay $3.75 million to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit brought by the family of a man who died at Monroe Correctional Complex after his cancer went untreated despite repeated pleas.

Kenny Williams, 63, died in June 2019 of breast cancer that had spread to his bones. If he’d received chemotherapy, as recommended by an oncologist, he’d likely have lived to his release date last fall, according to the lawsuit.

Instead, as documented in a scathing November 2019 prison watchdog report, efforts by Williams and his family to obtain treatment were frustrated by a confused and at times coldly indifferent DOC bureaucracy, delaying proper care until it was too late.

In agreeing to the settlement, finalized last week, the DOC admitted its medical care failures “more likely than not” caused Williams’ suffering and death.

“The DOC failed. It has repeatedly failed. It has paid millions to settle cases that could have been avoided with competent and decent care, and it should take this case as an opportunity to look deep within itself and consider what it needs to do to avoid further travesties like this,” said Ed Budge, an attorney with the Seattle law firm Budge & Heipt, which filed the lawsuit last April on behalf of Williams’ estate.

The settlement money will benefit Williams’ widow, Dee Williams, and their four children.

Jacque Coe, a DOC spokesperson, said in an email the agency would have no comment on the settlement.

The DOC previously has pointed to systemwide health care policy and training changes aimed at improving medical care at state prisons since Williams’ death.

The new settlement is the latest in a series of investigations, lawsuits and payouts caused by poor medical care in state prisons.

Admitting negligence, the DOC last year paid $3.25 million to the family of a man who died in 2019 of a festering abdominal wound that was not properly treated at the Monroe prison. In 2020, the state paid a $400,000 settlement in the death of a man whose cancer went untreated at the same prison, despite filing written grievances seeking attention.

The medical director at the Monroe prison, Julia Barnett, was fired for misconduct in 2019 after a DOC investigation found she’d provided or supervised inadequate care for incarcerated people, including at least three who died. Her medical license has been indefinitely suspended by state regulators.

A bearded, burly man, Williams was a talented musician who wrote songs, sang and played a Fender Stratocaster guitar in bands, including the Crazy Texas Gypsies.

Williams went to prison after pleading guilty in 2016 to two counts of second-degree assault for shooting a man after a night of drinking in Kent.

In May of 2018, a nurse discovered a lump in Williams’ left breast. But no follow-up examination was scheduled, even though Williams had a family history of breast cancer.

Within a few months, he was describing stabbing pain and a DOC medical staffer urgently recommended scans, according to the lawsuit. Nothing happened for a month.