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$20,000 Paid by Centurion and MHM Health Professionals to Arizona Prisoner for Alleged Deliberate Indifference and Medical Negligence

by Jacob Barrett

On June 24, 2022, a prisoner in the Arizona Department of Corrections (DOC) accepted $20,000 to settle his claims of deliberate indifference and medical negligence against DOC’s privately contracted healthcare and mental healthcare providers: Centurion of Arizona and MHM Health Professionals, respectively. Both are subsidiaries of Centene Corp.,.

During his arrest for carjacking and robbery in December 2013, 44-year-old Edmund Powers attempted to flee and jumped off a highway overpass, injuring his foot in the fall. By the time he entered DOC custody in March 2015 to begin serving a 26-year-sentence, his foot had metal plates and screws. A specialist for DOC’s then-healthcare provider, Corizon Health, ordered him fitted with new orthopedics every eight to 12 months.

In prison, Powers’ orthopedics deteriorated. By April 2019, they were “months overdue” for replacement, according to the complaint he later filed. But Corizon Health nurse practitioner Lawrence Ende refused to order replacements because they were “too costly.”

The next month, while using the bathroom, Powers felt a sharp cracking pain in his foot and noticed a bruise-like discoloration with a hard protrusion. Recalling warnings that further injury to his foot might result in below-the-knee leg amputation, he immediately filed an urgent health needs request.

At the end of that month, Centurion of Arizona took over as DOC healthcare provider. On July 16, 2019, 15 days later, an X-ray of Powers’ foot revealed his orthopedics were indeed damaged. But scheduling mix-ups delayed surgery until October 16, 2019 — five months after his foot was injured. To make matters worse, he received poor wound care once back at the prison, resulting in a staph infection that caused even more pain.

With the aid of Tempe attorney Keith M. Knowlton, Powers filed suit in federal court for the District of Arizona against DOC Director David Shinn and other officials, as well as Corizon Health, Centurion of Arizona, MHM Health Professionals and their employees. Proceeding under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, he accused them of deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, in violation of the Eighth Amendment guarantee of freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.

In November 2020, Powers dismissed all other defendants except Centurion of Arizona and MHM Health Professionals. Their insurer, Columbia Casualty Company, then joined them in executing the settlement agreement, which included costs and fees for Knowlton, Plaintiff’s attorney. See: Powers v. Shinn, USDC (D.Ariz.), Case No. 2:20-cv-01597. 

Additional source: East Valley Tribune