By Jeff Todd
CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CBS4)– He was sick for almost a week, but a new federal lawsuit claims nurses, doctors, and deputies ignored signs and allowed a man to die in the Arapahoe County Jail.
“He had bacterial pneumonia. He had been coughing up blood for days. He had been begging for medical treatment for days and they did nothing,” said David Lane who is representing the victim’s widow.
Jeffrey Lillis had been in the Arapahoe County Jail for a few weeks. He’d been arrested for drugs and theft.
“He died of a treatable bacterial infection that people just don’t die of at this point if they have access to any reasonable medical care. This jail and these medical providers had four days in which they could have stopped this death when he was getting sicker and sicker. He needed basic medical attention that you should be able to get. No one should die of a bacterial infection in a medical clinic,” Anna Holland Edwards said.
Edwards is representing Lillis’ five children in the suit.
Court documents say nurses began testing Lillis on Dec. 11, 2014. He had signs of fever and over the coming days would cough up blood, vomit, and have diarrhea. Records indicate nurses tried to give him cough syrup and Gatorade to help with his ailments.
“We have videos where he collapses and he lies on the floor for about 10 minutes. Then a nurse goes in and takes his vitals and that’s it. And moments later he’s dead. The guy had been begging for help for days and that’s the best they can do,” Lane said.
“There was time to save this man when people knew he was desperately ill and no one did anything,” Holland Edwards said. “One of our claims in this lawsuit is that the private company they employ for doctors really only provides telephone support on the weekends. “
The suit lists Arapahoe County as a defendant along with the contractor Correct Care Solution, Correctional Healthcare Companies, Great Peak Healthcare Services, Correctional Healthcare Physicians, Maxim Healthcare Services and seven medical professionals individually.
The Arapahoe County Sheriff sent CBS4 a statement saying, “The health and safety of inmates housed at the Arapahoe County Detention Facility is a priority for our staff and contractors. There are significant challenges associated with the management of a diverse inmate population. As an agency accredited through both the American Correctional Association and the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, we manage those challenges with well-trained staff, and consistent application of rules and regulations within the facility.”
Correct Care Solutions said the company couldn’t comment on pending litigation.
Correct Care Solutions is also used by Jefferson County and has faced several high profile law suits.
Ken McGill was awarded an $11 million verdict related to injuries he sustained during an untreated stroke while in custody in the Jefferson County Jail.
Jennifer Lobato died from opioid withdrawal in 2015. Jefferson County settled with Lobato’s family for $2.5 million earlier this year, but the case against CCS is not settled and looks headed for a jury trial.
“Their attitude is, look if we kill a few inmates along the way then we have to pay some big judgments that’s still cheaper than giving good medical care,” Lane said.
“This is a problem in jails all over the country where people who need care can’t get it. Whether it’s Jefferson County or Arapahoe County or correctional healthcare companies, it costs money to provide care and our jails aren’t willing to pay it,” Holland Edwards said.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated McGill died. He remains alive.
Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.