Broward jail’s healthcare vendor didn’t disclose wrongful-death payout

 

BrowardBulldog.org

A Miami healthcare company looking to renew its multimillion dollar contract to care for Broward’s jail inmates did not disclose in bid documents that it paid an $800,000 wrongful-death settlement earlier this year in Tampa.

Broward Sheriff’s Office procurement rules require bidders to disclose any malpractice cases filed against them or their employees in the past five years, and any pending litigation, judgments and settlements in the past three years.

Armor Correctional Health Services, the top-ranked bidder, sent a June 4 proposal to BSO that includes a 14-page list of 150 malpractice lawsuits. No mention is made of the case of Allen Daniel Hicks, who spent nearly 36 hours in custody in a Tampa jail without treatment for a stroke that ultimately killed him.

In a cover letter to BSO, Armor Chief Executive Officer Bruce A. Teal boasted that Armor had “zero (0) settlements in the last three (3) years.”

Not so.

Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) and Hillsborough Circuit Court records show Armor and the HCSO jointly agreed in January to pay a total of $1 million to settle claims made by Hicks’ estate. The deal, which included a $200,000 payout by HSCO, was approved Feb. 26 by a probate judge and reported by The Tampa Bay Times on July 6.

Hicks suffered “severe brain damage” while waiting for treatment, according to a Jan. 7 memo by HSCO’s lawyer that summarized a sworn statement by the Tampa General Hospital neurosurgeon who treated Hicks.

The “delay in medical care resulted in Mr. Hicks’ death, which could have been avoided had Mr. Hicks been sent to the emergency room,” the memo says.

A receiving doctor “was extremely critical of the medical care provided by Armor, as well as Armor and HSCO’s delay in transferring Mr. Hicks to the hospital,” says the memo.

A spokeswoman for Armor said her company did not disclose the Hicks settlement because of the way BSO worded its bid question.

“The language specifically requests ‘settlements of court cases.’ The Hicks settlement was never a court case, which is why it was not included,” said Yeleny Suarez of the Miami public relations firm Everett Clay Associates.

BSO declined to comment.

Armor’s apparently botched treatment of Hicks raises questions about the quality of medical care it provides to inmates, including those in Broward.

Armor’s list discloses that since 2008 it was sued 22 times in federal and state court by Broward jail inmates whose allegations included improper medical care, failure to provide medication and inappropriate conduct by medical providers.

The inmates who filed most of those cases had no lawyers and their cases were dismissed without trial, as is typical in cases in which plaintiffs represent themselves.

BSO’s bid documents require prospective vendors to disclose their litigation history to satisfy a requirement that they “shall have a track record of providing quality, reliable inmate health care services.”

“Failure to answer all questions thoroughly and truthfully may result in your proposal being found non-responsive,” bidders are cautioned on BSO’s background questionnaire.

Armor’s role in what happened to Hicks is the kind of information the questionnaire was designed to ferret out.

The tragic and troubling episode is spelled out in police and court records.

Hicks, 51, was arrested about 11 a.m. on May 11, 2012, following a minor accident on I-275 in Hillsborough County in which no one was injured. A witness told police Hicks’ 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier was traveling at slow speed and weaving before he struck a guardrail.

Police called to the scene described Hicks as erratic, uncooperative and thought he might be on drugs. At one point, deputies pulled their guns on Hicks when he failed to comply with an order to show his left hand after one officer thought he saw Hicks reach into a seat pocket.

Hicks, a local volunteer baseball coach who lived with and cared for his aging mother, was handcuffed, taken to jail and charged with resisting an officer without violence.

Hicks arrived unable to speak coherently or walk. He was placed in a holding cell where he lay on the floor, unable to move his left side, for an extended period.

A sheriff’s investigation details a series of errors by Armor personnel, beginning with the failure of a sally port nurse to properly assess Hicks’ medical condition.

Two other Armor nurses were present in the holding cell. “But none of the LPNs attempted to examine Hicks closer, obtain vital signs or interview him,” the report says.

The next day, another nurse saw Hicks and expressed concern that he showed stroke symptoms. Hicks was soon transferred to Tampa General, where he was diagnosed as having suffered a stroke.

Hicks remained in a coma and under constant medical care at Tampa General until his death on Aug. 7, 2012.

His mother died while Hicks was hospitalized.

Broward Bulldog is a not-for-profit online only newspaper created to provide local reporting in the public interest. www.browardbulldog.org 954-603-1351

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