FJI Receives DBR’s Most Effective Lawyer: Public Interest Award

Attorneys from the nonprofit Florida Justice Institute teamed with Kozyak Tropin Throckmorton lawyers for a high-profile class-action against the Florida Department of Corrections and its former medical contractor, Corizon LLC.

They negotiated a $2.1 million settlement with the defendants, who were accused of denying prisoners hernia operations to save money.

Institute executive director Randall Berg Jr. worked with staff attorneys Dante Trevisani and Erica Selig, Kozyak Tropin partners Kenneth Hartman and Tucker Ronzetti, and Douglas Wolfe of Douglas Wolfe Law to reach the landmark settlement. They represented prisoners in the federal lawsuit filed in Tallahassee on behalf of Tracy Copeland, Archie Green and Amado Parra, who each received $5,000 plus attorney fees and costs.

About 311 current or former inmates who sought treatment for hernias under Corizon programs will each receive about $2,733. Another 1,637 are set to receive about $519 each.

“Hopefully this agreement marks a shift in the way that Florida provides medical care to the people in its custody,” Trevisani said. “This case is just one more illustration of the failure of privatized prison health care.”

The lawsuit detailed a yearslong struggle by multiple inmates to get hernia surgery. It claimed the prison and health care contractor repeatedly denied consultations with surgeons or refused operations that doctors deemed medically necessary.

The complaint alleged that both the Corrections Department and its contractor had a “policy, practice and custom” of denying hernia surgery, except in emergency circumstances, to reduce costs and increase profits.

The state and Corizon denied all allegations but said they settled to avoid protracted litigation.

During the litigation, Corizon terminated its $1.5 billion contract with the state. Plaintiffs attorneys argued the company had a financial incentive to avoid providing care because the contract paid a flat per-prisoner fee to cover all health care costs.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in September approved a consent order that requires the defendants to pay a combined $2.1 million to the class of about 2,000 current and former prisoners. The department agreed to change its policy to ensure hernia patients get prompt referrals for surgical consultations and follow medical recommendations.

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