PENSACOLA (Florida Record) — A former Florida inmate is suing a state corrections health care services provider and three of its employees, alleging years of poor health care he received following a colitis diagnosis, including solitary confinement for using the bathroom, that ultimately left him with a colostomy bag.
Former prisoner Ryan Huff filed his 14-page complaint filed May 15, in U.S. District Court for Florida's Northern District, Pensacola Division, against the health services corporation Corizon, which is contracted to provide health care to prisoners in the Florida Department of Corrections. Huff's complaint also names as defendants Corizon's Regional medical director Daniel Cherry, Century Correctional Institution (Century C.I.) chief health officer Allen Ho and registered nurse Christine Nobles.
Huff is suing under federal law covering civil action for deprivation of rights.
In December 2013, Huff, then 26, was incarcerated at Century Correctional Institution in Escambia County following a 5-year sentence for violating probation, according to information in the complaint, which is written largely in present tense. The following May, while housed at the nearby Berrydale Work Camp, Huff filed "sick call requests describing worrisome changes in bowel movements including frequency and increasing amounts of blood," the complaint said.
About two weeks later, Ho prescribed common over-the-counter medications, including stool softeners, but Huff's condition continually worsened well into the following month when he was admitted to Baptist Hospital in Pensacola and was diagnosed with severe ulcerative colitis, according to the complaint. Huff says he was "prematurely taken out of Baptist Hospital" after Corizon executives complained "they are losing over a million dollars a month under their contract with the Florida Department of Corrections."
After an exchange with Nobles, Huff was discharged from Baptist Hospital June 29, 2014, according to his complaint. "The discharging doctor, Laura K. Magan, notes she was unable to reach Dr. Ho prior to discharge and expressed surprise that the patient was transferred back to the prison with no doctor-to-doctor communication," the complaint said.
"At Century C.I., Huff is taken off his IV and most of his medications and his health condition almost immediately begins to worsen. Huff is quickly moved out of the prison clinic back to prison housing without any medical facilities. After leaving Baptist, Huff’s medications are gradually withdrawn."
Within days Huff was "locked up in a tiny confinement cell about the size of a parking space for 24 hours a day without medical care" for using the bathroom without "a special bathroom pass" that Ho denied him, according to the complaint. Near the end of July "after days in confinement without care", Huff was referred briefly to a Corizon-run reception and medical center (RMC) before being returned to solitary confinement.
"While in solitary confinement, Huff suffers severe nausea, rectal bleeding, vomiting, weakness and high fever but staff continue to ignore his pleas," the complaint said. "Huff is convinced that he is going to die alone in that cell."
After a few more days, Huff was "suddenly taken out to see a specialist" at Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville "where Corizon maintains a secure wing," by which time his "lower intestines are seriously compromised", the complaint said. Huff underwent surgery for "subtotal colectomy with ileostomy surgery," the compliant said.
"A surgeon disconnects his small intestine from his lower intestines and runs it directly into a hole, a 'stoma' made in his abdomen. Huff, not yet 30, now eliminates his bodily waste into a colostomy bag."
Thereafter, Huff was released back into the general population but haphazardly received prescribed medications and care and was denied prescribed items, such as a special low-residue diet and replacement colostomy bags, until he was released in May 2017.
Huff continues to suffer pain, disability, disfigurement and "permanent damage to overall health and bodily condition" and is "at significantly higher risk for health problems in the future," the complaint said.
The complaint is not the first time Corizon and Huff have encountered each other in litigation. Legal counsel for Corizon sought to exclude Huff as a witness in separate litigation against Corizon, Kantor v. Corizon, according to an order handed down in that case by the same court in April. In that order, the court found "no legal justification" to exclude Huff and his mother, Susan Clark, as witnesses. "While the disclosure of this information may have surprised plaintiff, the remedy is not to exclude the testimony but rather upon motion to allow Corizon to depose Ms. Clark and Mr. Huff," that order said.
In his complaint, Huff seeks compensatory damages, attorney fees, costs, punitive damages, a jury trial on all counts and "any such further and additional relief as this court deems proper".
The lawsuit was filed by Tallahassee attorney James V. Cook, under Case No. 3:18-cv-01338-MCR-EMT