Federal Court Allows Prison Hepatitis C Class Action To Proceed

In a lengthy decision issued on March 22, 2016, U.S. District Judge John R. Padova ruled that a class action lawsuit on behalf of Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (“DOC”) inmates with Hepatitis C states valid legal claims under, among other provisions, the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Hepatitis C is a chronic infection that severely impacts the liver and has serious consequences for quality of life. The condition is common in prison populations, and nearly twenty percent of the inmates held in Pennsylvania’s state correctional facilities have the infection. As recently as five years ago, medications used to treat the condition were largely unsuccessful in curing the disease and caused harmful side effects. In 2014, however, the FDA approved a revolutionary new drug, which has fewer side effects, can be taken for a shorter time period, and is successful in curing the disease. The new drug is viewed as the baseline standard of care for the treatment of Hepatitis C.

In the class action suit, the plaintiffs, inmates in DOC facilities, allege that the DOC and its private contractor medical personnel have refused to provide the new drug to DOC inmates with Hepatitis C. The defendants moved to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims. The Court’s decision, however, will allow the case to progress to discovery.

KRMF partner David Rudovsky represents the plaintiffs along with Angus Love and Su Ming Yeh of the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project and Stephen D. Brown and Christine C. Levin of Dechert LLP. The case is Salvatore Chimenti et al. v. Pennsylvania Department of Corrections et al., No. 15-cv-3333 (E.D. Pa.).

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