Tennessee inmate lawsuit over hepatitis C granted class action status

Thousands of Tennessee inmates suffering from a hepatitis C epidemic in state prisons are one step closer to receiving life-saving medication currently provided to a select few.

U.S. District Chief Judge Waverly Crenshaw granted class action status Thursday to a lawsuit filed by two state inmates against the Tennessee Department of Correction. That means that every current or future inmate infected with the potentially deadly liver disease could be in line to receive better treatment.

The lawsuit, filed by inmates Charles Graham and Russell Davis, calls on the department to provide medication that can treat hepatitis C to every infected Tennessee inmate, a move experts believe would drastically cut down on the spread of the disease inside and outside of prison but could cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars.

“Judge Crenshaw’s order is the first victory for plaintiffs in their larger legal battle to ultimately force the Department of Correction to diagnose and treat inmates suffering from hepatitis C according to universally accepted minimum medical standards,” said Karla Campbell, the lead attorney representing the inmates in the case.

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