- Associated Press - Monday, July 20, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - A federal judge says an Idaho inmate can move forward with his lawsuit against the state even though he has already won a six-figure settlement from the state’s prison health care provider.

William Bown, an inmate at the Idaho Maximum Security Institution south of Boise, filed the lawsuit against Idaho prison officials and the prison health care contractor Corizon in 2012 after he had a heart attack.

Bown contended that the prison guards and the medical care providers failed to realize the seriousness of his condition and sent him to an observation cell instead of calling for emergency care. Bown says that as a result, his heart attack went untreated for roughly eight hours despite his screams for help, leaving him with severe and irreversible heart damage.

Bown named several Idaho prison officials, Corizon Inc. and several Corizon employees as defendants in the case. Last year, Corizon agreed to pay Bown more than $670,000 to settle its portion of the case.

In a statement, Corizon Health officials declined to comment on the settlement because of a confidentiality agreement. But the company said its top priority was providing skilled and compassionate health care to patients.

The inmate asked to modify his lawsuit to remove Corizon and its employees from the defendant list, leaving just the state officials.

The state of Idaho, which has denied any liability in the case, then asked the federal judge to toss out the case entirely. Idaho’s attorneys said that the settlement with Corizon rendered the remaining lawsuit moot.

But in a sharply worded order issued late last month, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill said Bown’s lawsuit against the state would stand. Just because Bown agreed to release the Corizon defendants from the lawsuit doesn’t mean the Idaho Department of Corrections defendants are automatically released as well, the judge said.

“This conclusion is so patently clear, that the Defendants’ opposition to the Motion to amend borders on being frivolous,” Winmill wrote.

In his lawsuit, Bown contends that the state should have better trained Department of Corrections employees to recognize the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, and that the state failed to ensure that its medical care provider had adequate policies in place to treat medical emergencies.

The state should have known that Corizon wasn’t providing adequate care, Bown says in the lawsuit, because Idaho officials had fined Corizon and CMS - a company that formerly held the state prison health care contract, and that Corizon later merged with - hundreds of thousands of dollars for not meeting the terms of the contract. Bown also cited a class-action lawsuit over medical care at a neighboring prison that has spanned more than three decades.

Bown says the Department of Corrections had long abandoned its obligation to preserve the physical safety and constitutional rights of its inmates, and that the state “allowed and even fostered systemic conditions evidencing a deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of those individuals in their custody, including Mr. Bown.”

Bown is asking for damages in an amount to be proven at trial.

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