Successful Ruling in Dean v. Wexford Health Sources Case

September 29, 2020

Court denied defendants’ motion for judgment as a matter of law and motion for a new trial and instead upheld the jury’s verdict including compensatory damages of $1 million, remitting punitive damages to $7M from $10M; Plaintiff’s motion for attorneys’ fees and costs granted in part. Court entered final judgment in favor of plaintiff in excess of $8M.

Craig C. Martin is lead counsel to William Kent Dean in a civil rights lawsuit against Wexford Health Sources, a private corporation that contracts with Illinois to provide healthcare services to state prisoners. In December 2019, a team led by Mr. Martin tried the case before a jury and secured a $1 million compensatory damages award and a $10 million punitive damages award against Wexford and punitive damages against two of its physicians. Following the trial, Mr. Dean was released early from prison. The defendants then moved for judgment in their favor or a new trial, or for a reduction in the damages.

On September 28, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois denied defendants’ motion for a new trial and upheld the jury’s verdict, remitting the punitive damages to $7 million. Plaintiff’s motion for attorneys’ fees and costs was granted in part.

In its reasoning, the court wrote: “This case was about a kind of deliberate indifference that is more subtle and insidious than the kind of deliberate indifference that screams out with obvious, easy-to-find evidence. The skill, resources, and tenacity of Plaintiff’s attorneys are the reason Plaintiff was able to uncover and prove deliberate indifference.”

Mr. Dean has Stage 4 kidney cancer. While he was incarcerated at the Taylorville Correctional Center, Wexford ignored Mr. Dean’s obvious signs of serious illness and delayed necessary diagnostic tests and care‚Äíprioritizing saving money over diagnosing and treating Mr. Dean’s illness through a cost control procedure referred to as “collegial review,” which allows off-site, corporate physicians to deny healthcare to prisoners based on its cost. Mr. Dean brought suit against Wexford under Section 1983, claiming Wexford’s collegial review policy was deliberately indifferent to Mr. Dean’s serious medical need. Mr. Dean also brought respondeat superior and institutional negligence claims under Illinois state law.

The Chicago-based Willkie team was led by partner Craig C. Martin and included associate Chloe Holt.