This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The Utah State Prison has reached a settlement with the family of an inmate who died in April after a medical technician failed to show up for work to give him a dialysis treatment.
U.S. District Judge David Sam signed an order Tuesday dismissing as defendants Department of Corrections Warden Scott Crowther; Richard Garden, the department's Clinical Services Bureau director; and medical workers at the prison.
The order says the family of Ramon C. Estrada has settled the suit against the corrections defendants.
"While our clients Warden Crowther and Dr. Garden have admitted no liability, both they and Utah's Department of Corrections are relieved this case has been resolved and would like to again publicly express their sincere condolences to the Estrada family," said Camille Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Utah attorney general's office, which represented the Corrections Department.
When Anderson declined to release the amount of the settlement, The Salt Lake Tribune filed a public records request for the information with the attorney general's office. Assistant Attorney General Blaine Ferguson responded that he was in the process of gathering records responsive to the request and did not have anything to provide immediately.
Sam noted that the claims against the remaining defendants University of Utah Health Care, which provides dialysis at the prison through the South Valley Dialysis Center, and clinic employees who allegedly were involved in a scheduling mix-up are not affected by his order.
The suit, filed in June in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, seeks an unspecified amount of money in compensatory and punitive damages and for Estrada's pain and suffering. The inmate's son, Jose Estrada, who lives in Texas, brought the suit on behalf of himself and three siblings.
Ramon Estrada, 62, died April 5 of apparent cardiac arrest due to renal failure, according to a statement by the Department of Corrections. The inmate was to be paroled April 21 after nearly a decade in prison on a rape conviction.
Six other inmates also missed their on-site dialysis treatments and were taken to a hospital for evaluation. One was hospitalized overnight, three received dialysis and returned to the prison, and two were found to not need dialysis immediately.
A University of Utah Health Care investigation found that a technician had agreed to switch shifts with a co-worker and take the April 3 and 4 appointments. Although the techs both noted the change on a communications log at the prison, the tech who agreed to cover the shifts failed to note the change on his personal calendar, investigators found, and did not go to the prison.
Prison nurses apparently did not try to contact the dialysis center for at least two days after the tech began missing appointments, according to the investigation.
The two dialysis technicians were disciplined, but not fired, according to The Associated Press.
University of Utah Health Care spokeswoman Kathy Wilets said in April that the U. deeply regretted the mistake and would take the necessary steps to ensure a scheduling mix-up would not happen again.
Wilets had no comment Tuesday.
The Clinical Services Bureau director was put on administrative leave and later returned to work as a medical doctor. While the Department of Corrections did not name him, that former position matches the description of Garden.
In addition, a physician assistant and a supervising nurse were given termination notices, a second supervising nurse was demoted and a registered nurse received a 40-hour suspension.
Alyson McAllister, a lawyer who represents the family, declined to reveal the settlement amount because of a confidentiality agreement. She did say the investigation into the case has helped the family.
"They wanted to know why this happened," McAllister said, "and what was being done to make sure this didn't happen [again]."
At a 2008 parole hearing, Estrada said he was grateful for the dialysis he was getting.
"I'm getting very sick and very ill," he said, "and if I hadn't gotten into that program, I wouldn't be here right now."