Federal judge lets NY prison hepatitis policy claim proceed

AP News
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Posted: Mar 16, 2015 6:29 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — A lawsuit that says New York state officials, including former Gov. George Pataki, supported a policy to trim medical costs that led to the denial of hepatitis treatment for some inmates can proceed to trial, a judge has ruled.

In the decision entered in the public record Monday, U.S. District Judge Raymond J. Dearie in Brooklyn ruled that a former prisoner identified only as "K. Doe" had adequately asserted his $250 million claim that Pataki and other government officials created and implemented a policy to withhold from state prisoners their positive hepatitis status and deny treatment as a cost-saving measure.

Melissa Grace, a spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office, which is representing the defendants, including Pataki, said the office had no comment.

The inmate said he contracted hepatitis while held at various New York correctional facilities as he served a 30-year prison sentence from June 1976 to June 2007.

According to the lawsuit, he was never told medical exams showed he had hepatitis, which causes liver inflammation, and a lack of treatment worsened his condition. The lawsuit said his private doctor in April 2008 revealed that he suffered from advanced infections of hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

The lawsuit said his doctor later received his medical history from state corrections officials and discovered that the state had known for nearly a dozen years that he suffered from hepatitis without telling him or treating him.

The lawsuit said Pataki and other state officials in the early to middle 1990s discussed the alarming rates of hepatitis infections in the prison populations and decided treatment would be available only to state prisoners who were aware of their infected status who asked for treatment or to those who asked to be tested and then requested treatment.

The suit claimed the policy subjected prisoners to cruel and unusual punishment.

The judge said the lawsuit sufficiently alleged the plausibility of the claim that there was such a hepatitis policy as well as the personal involvement of Pataki. But Dearie dismissed the complaint against two doctors on the grounds that the lawsuit did not allege personal involvement and against other defendants because the statute of limitations for them had expired.