FLORIDA JAIL LAWSUIT: DIABETIC INMATES EXPOSED TO HIV THROUGH CONTAMINATED INSULIN AT TAMPA-AREA DETENTION CENTER
Hundreds of Diabetic Inmates Exposed to Bloodborne Disease by Insulin Contaminated by Used Needles; Formal Investigation and Action Needed by Florida Attorney General, County Prosecutor
TAMPA, FL///JANUARY 19, 2022///A class-action lawsuit was filed against private for-profit correctional contractor Wellpath, LLC after it was revealed that a nurse engaged in a reckless practice that contaminated the insulin supply in the Land O’Lakes detention center in Pasco County, Florida. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida by the law firm Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane Conway & Wise (Peiffer Wolf) on behalf of five current diabetic inmates and a class of current and former inmates at the Tampa-area detention center.
The issue was discovered in early January 2022, when Peiffer Wolf attorneys learned that a Wellpath nurse administered an insulin injection to a diabetic patient who was HIV-positive and then placed that used needle into a multi-dose insulin vial to retrieve more insulin. The nurse then gave injections to other inmates using insulin from the HIV-contaminated vial. After being confronted about this unsafe injection practice, the nurse acknowledged that she used this method while administering insulin to inmates for the entirety of her employment at the jail, which is believed to be since January 2021.
Most diabetic inmates at the jail received insulin injections twice per day. Sources estimate that the Land O’Lakes detention center has at least 40 diabetic inmates in its custody at any given time, with inmates regularly entering and leaving the jail.
Wellpath has administered HIV tests and given prophylactic medications to some of the inmates but has neither informed them of their potential exposure nor obtained informed consent for the testing and medication. In addition to the known risk of HIV, the nurse’s reckless injection practice likely exposed diabetic inmates to other bloodborne diseases, including hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
Lead counsel for the plaintiffs, Ashlie Case Sletvold of Peiffer Wolf, said, “Individuals should never be exposed to deadly diseases by their medical providers’ reckless and unhygienic practices. By subjecting incarcerated people to the risk of HIV and other bloodborne illnesses, Wellpath violated its duties under the Constitution. This class action is an important step toward holding Wellpath accountable.”
The individuals responsible for contaminating insulin to inmates may be subject to criminal penalties under Florida law for culpable negligence. Local prosecutors and the Florida Attorney General have yet to investigate or file charges.
There is no evidence that Wellpath has taken any steps to notify the individuals exposed or potentially exposed to contaminated insulin. While some of these people remain in the Land O’Lakes detention center, others have been transferred to different detention facilities throughout the state and country. Still, others have been released into the community.
Kevin P. Conway, partner, Peiffer Wolf Carr Kane Conway & Wise, said: “The Attorney General of the state of Florida and the Pasco County prosecutor’s office should investigate this matter immediately. It’s shocking that the Land O’Lakes Detention Center could allow inmates’ lives to be put at risk, but it’s even worse that none of the victims were informed so that they could seek testing or take steps to protect their families. While Wellpath may be directly responsible for putting these inmates at risk, it’s the system of private for-profit correctional contracting that allowed this type of recklessness to take place.”
MEDIA CONTACT: Whitney Dunlap at (614) 450-0255 or [email protected].
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EDITOR’S NOTE: The time-stamped court filing, related news release, and a streaming version of the January 19th news event will be available later that same day at https://peifferwolf.com/.
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