Mass torts: Prisoners join fight for treatment of hepatitis C

Life in prison is rough under any circumstances, and when a prisoner is sick, it can be very worse. For example, Tennessee prisons reportedly see epidemic numbers of hepatitis C cases. However, because a small fraction of those cases are treated, a U.S. District Court judge has granted class action status to a lawsuit filed by two sick inmates. Mass torts widen the field of plaintiffs.

Hepatitis C is spreading through the Tennessee prison system with staggering numbers. A recent tally showed that 3,669 inmates were infected with the potentially deadly virus, up almost 200 from just seven months earlier. Some say this number is likely higher because not every inmate is tested upon incarceration. Of those infected, only seven are receiving treatment. Prison officials deny they are violating the rights of prisoners and that some with the disease will recover without care.

Meanwhile a judge granted class action status to the lawsuit filed by two inmates requesting treatment for the liver disease. If the lawsuit is successful, every inmate in the named prisons, including those no longer incarcerated, will be eligible to receive medication to treat the illness. While available treatment can effectively cure hepatitis C, it can cost $80,000 or more per person,

While measuring the cost is something officials certainly must consider when dealing with taxpayer dollars, the cost of human life cannot be weighed, including the lives of those who are incarcerated. By filing mass torts, more than just the two original plaintiffs can benefit from a successful outcome in this case. Those in Tennessee who feel they are one of many who have been hurt by someone else's negligence may consult an attorney for advice about such lawsuits.

Source: tennessean.com, "Tennessee inmate lawsuit over hepatitis C granted class action status", Dave Boucher, May 5, 2017

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