When a jail or prison accepts custody of an inmate or pretrial detainee, certain constitutional standards apply. These standards include the obligation to provide medical care in response to a known serious condition. When a jail or prison knows about an inmate’s needs but purposefully disregards a serious medical condition, resulting in the death of an inmate or pretrial detainee, the jail or prison (or its officers) can be liable for wrongful death. Such medical negligence includes the denial of prescription medications, the failure to respond to symptoms indicating potentially fatal heart conditions or other medical conditions, the refusal to treat serious infections, and/or the denial of medical care leading to wrongful death.

In appropriate circumstances, we also handle other case involving abuse or neglect in jail or prison resulting in wrongful death or serious injury. Such cases include, for example, inmate-on-inmate assaults or rapes in which a jail or prison knew of but disregarded a prisoner’s known propensity for violence, as well as cases involving suicide where a jail or prison consciously disregarded clear signs that an inmate was likely to take his or her own life.

Among our recent notable recent results is an historic jury verdict in the amount of $26.75 million — an amount that, as of the date of the verdict, is believed to be the largest jury verdict of its kind for the death of a jail inmate against a private correctional healthcare company. In 2023, we obtained an historic $7 million settlement for the death of a woman following her confinement in a privately-operated Texas jail — one which is believed to have been the largest of its kind in the State of Texas. We have also achieved recent results of $6.75 million against a county and correctional healthcare company arising from an inmate’s death from dehydration in a county jail, a $5.7 million settlement for the death of a teenager in a Washington jail, a $4.25 million settlement against a national correctional healthcare company for the death of a jail inmate, a $3.75 million settlement arising from the medical neglect of a prisoner, a $3 million settlement in a jury trial involving the death of a Washington prisoner, a $1.5 million settlement resulting from the death of a Washington inmate by a known-dangerous prisoner, a $1.1 million settlement for an untreated infection in jail, a $1.2 million settlement involving death from dehydration, and numerous other confidential seven-figure outcomes. Our hard work and dedication has resulted in millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements and we firmly believe our efforts help to change the system for the better.

The lawyers at Budge & Heipt sincerely believe that prisoners and jail inmates are entitled to adequate care and humane treatment—whether they are being held in jail before a conviction as a “pretrial detainee” or whether they are being held in prison or jail as a convicted prisoner. The fact is that inmates and detainees have constitutional rights to adequate medical care and to be free from deliberate indifference by jail officers and correctional healthcare providers. When these constitutional rights are violated and cause great suffering or death to an incarcerated person, we work hard to pursue civil lawsuits and obtain compensation. In short, at Budge & Heipt we seek to hold jails, prisons, corrections officers and their supervisors, medical providers, and correctional healthcare companies legally responsible when we believe the facts justify a civil remedy.

Among the modern trends in correctional healthcare is the move towards “privatizing” the constitutional obligation to provide medical care to jail inmates. Counties and other municipalities are increasingly signing contracts with for-profit corporations called “correctional healthcare companies” to provide medical care at jails and prisons. Under many circumstances, these companies can be sued as government actors for violating the constitutional rights of inmates and detainees to adequate medical care. The lawyers at Budge & Heipt have successfully pursued these cases, and we pride ourselves on understanding the fine legal permutations surrounding them. Because of our vast experience, we are familiar with the medical issues surrounding drug, alcohol, and prescription medication withdrawal, as well as other forms of medical neglect. We have successfully pursued lawsuits on behalf of inmates denied treatment for heart conditions, high blood pressure, difficulty breathing, diabetes, infections, and even on behalf of people who have been denied treatment for mental illness resulting in death from dehydration.

Sadly, medical neglect in jail happens too frequently. When a person is harmed or dies from medical neglect in jail or prison, “deliberate indifference” is often cited as the constitutional standard governing civil lawsuits.

“Deliberate indifference” is an important legal term, and a standard that the lawyers are Budge & Heipt regularly keep in mind when evaluating cases of medical neglect. But there may be other legal requirements as well in medical neglect cases—particularly when liability is sought against a city, county, or company that contracts to provide medical care. In many circumstances, a constitutional claim against these entities will require proof of a pattern, practice, custom, or policy that caused the person’s constitutional injury. How can a pattern, practice, custom, or policy be proven? The answer varies with every case, but we believe the key is recognizing the need to conduct pointed and extensive discovery designed to gather evidence during the legal process. We take this task seriously—at Budge & Heipt, we demand information of the defendants through written discovery requests; in appropriate circumstances, we demand financial data, training records, records of past instances of similar events, internal investigations and reviews, and other information. We also take depositions designed to gather facts and information to help us prove these claims.

When pursuing constitutional claims for deprivations of medical care in jail or prison, the lawyers at Budge & Heipt believe that preparation and thoroughness is essential. Our results bear out our philosophy. We have achieved multiple seven-figure results in these cases.

Our prison abuse and jail neglect cases are not limited to cases of “medical” neglect. At Budge & Heipt, we also take cases involving serious inmate-against-inmate assaults where there is compelling evidence that a person was too dangerous to be housed with other inmates or where a particular inmate was especially vulnerable to assault by others, and jail staff failed to take appropriate action to segregate and protect one inmate from another.

Not all inmate-against-inmate assaults are caused by the fault of jail staff. But we have successfully pursued cases where records show that a particular inmate has a known propensity for violence against other inmates in the correctional setting.

We also take cases involving egregious abuse of inmates by jail guards. We have pursued cases against private jail companies and jail personnel for using too much force against inmates in jail, including cases where inmates have been pepper-sprayed, tasered, or subjected to other force that causes serious injury or death. We also take cases involving abuse of female inmates by male staff, including inappropriate sexual contact.

Our efforts have resulted in millions of dollars to victims of inmate abuse and neglect. We have obtained seven-figure results for victims of medical neglect in jail, victims of untreated and unaddressed withdrawal in jail and prison, people who have not been treated appropriately for infections and other obvious medical problems, people victimized by broken systems that failed to segregate dangerous inmates, and other instances of jail abuse and neglect.

If you or your loved one was denied medical care or was the victim of neglect or abuse in jail or prison, including assault, rape, suicide or other negligence while in custody, resulting in serious injury or wrongful death, please contact our office to discuss your case. There is absolutely no cost or obligation to do so.

If you or a loved one has been a victim of serious injury and/or death at the hands of police or in jail or prison, tell us about your case.