In late April 2021, the Associated Press reported that Centurion Healthcare of New Mexico has prematurely terminated its contract with the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC). Centurion signed a 4-year contract with MDC that was to run until December 31, 2022. It is not clear why Centurion decided to end the contract early, but the recently passed New Mexico Civil Rights Act likely contributed to the termination.
Deaths at MDC Under Centurion Medical Care
According to the press report, there were 9 deaths at MDC over the course of one year, although it was not stated during which year the deaths occurred. Among the 9 deaths at MDC, 6 deaths were related to detox from drugs or alcohol. Collins & Collins, P.C. is investigating a number of issues related to these 6 deaths for a number of reasons. First and foremost, Collins & Collins, P.C. is very interested in the detox deaths because the firm is representing the family of one of those deceased inmates.
Deaths at MDC Not the Whole Story
Deaths at MDC are just that – they do not tell the whole story. Simply put, they are deaths that occurred at the MDC facility. These do not include deaths that occurred after leaving the facility upon transfer to a local hospital or upon release from jail. Because of this, it is exceedingly difficult to determine the actual death toll related to poor medical care at MDC or any New Mexico prison or jail. It is inexcusable that the neither the New Mexico Health and Human Services Department (HSD) nor New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD) keep track of this vital statistic. To make matters more difficult, local hospitals have stated that they do not track whether a death at their hospital facilities involved an inmate transfer from prison or jail. Collins & Collins, P.C. continues to pursue this information and will obtain it.
Centurion Performance with New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD)
What Collins & Collins, P.C. does know is that over 70 inmates died of medically related causes at NMCD facilities during the term of the 3 year contract with NMCD. The firm also knows that deaths reported by the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator do not track deaths that occur outside NMCD facilities. The OMI is required to perform investigations only on those inmates that die within a prison facility. Collins & Collins, P.C. has yet to determine how many medically related deaths occurred after transfer of an NMCD inmate to an outside hospital, but we keep searching and will eventually find the answers that we have been looking for.
Finally, we all know that Centurion ended its contract with NMCD early as well. That says something.
New Mexico Civil Rights Act is Game Changer of Inmate Medical Negligence Claims
Under the New Mexico Civil Rights Act, inmates can now seek up to $2 million in state court cases for prison and jail medical malpractice lawsuits. This is addition to the $700,000.00 allowable under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act.
The new $2 million caps on damages under the Civil Rights Act merit discussion. In claims against Centurion for medical malpractice claims on behalf of NMCD inmates, the courts have ruled that Centurion and presumably other NMCD medical providers have the protection of the New Mexico Tort Claims Act (TCA) which not only sets the absurdly low $700,000.00 cap on liability but also protects the medical providers against punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded for particularly atrocious misconduct which Collins & Collins, P.C. believes exists in all the cases it has filed against Centurion and NMCD. New Mexico is generous with punitive damages where they can be double digit multiples of compensatory damages. Punitive damages, if allowed, arguably would have improved prison medical care long ago.
The new $2 million cap addresses this issue for all but the largest, most horrendous prison medical neglect of NMCD inmates. Interestingly enough, TCA protections for prison medical providers arguably apply only to NMCD medical contractors. Collins & Collins, P.C. will be testing this in the MDC detox death case that it will soon be filing against MDC and Centurion.
Contact Collins & Collins, P.C. If You or a Loved One has Been Harmed by Centurion
As previously mentioned, Collins & Collins, P.C. has filed numerous suits against Centurion. The firm has investigated many more. During these investigations, Collins & Collins, P.C. has gathered extensive evidence on Centurion medical neglect of New Mexico inmates. Some or all of this evidence will used to gain justice for you, your loved one and your family.