Former CCSO deputy suing jail healthcare provider - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Former CCSO deputy suing jail healthcare provider

Wendy Smoot-Lee, (Source: WTOC) Wendy Smoot-Lee, (Source: WTOC)

Corizon Health, the company that provides healthcare for inmates at the Chatham County Jail, is under fire once again.

A former Chatham County Sheriff’s deputy is suing the company for negligence after a confrontation with an inmate left her with life-changing injuries.

The former deputy, Wendy Smoot-Lee, worked at the jail and says Corizon is to blame after she was attacked by an inmate who needed mental health care... but never got it, presumably to save money.

"She needed to be treated. She was sick, she was sick... give her what she needed,” said Smoot-Lee.

Two years ago this month, Sgt. Smoot-Lee was attacked by Shena Burton, an inmate at the jail. Since then, the former deputy's life hasn't been the same.

"I had back surgery. I have nuts, bolts and screws in my back now, and it's been an emotional rollercoaster,” said Smoot-Lee.

Permanent nerve damage means she now walks with a cane. Plus, she has more than $100,000 in medical bills and is undergoing treatment that may never end.

"My doctor told me, 'Wendy, you know that your career is over.' I didn't see that, I didn't believe that, but I had to come to terms with that,” she said.

Now, Sgt. Smoot-Lee is hoping for justice. According to a lawsuit filed by her attorney Monday, Corizon was negligent by "failing to timely and properly treat Burton's psychiatric disorder."
“And the evidence in this case is going to show that there were multiple warnings up the chain of command at Corizon that this individual needed treatment and that those warnings were not heeded,” said Will Claiborne, Smoot-Lee’s attorney.
Claiborne says this goes beyond just Sergeant Smoot-Lee's case and that it points to a pattern of Corizon choosing profits over the safety.

"Denying care to inmates causes harm to those inmates, but it also makes the situation incredibly risky for the staff at the jail,” said Claiborne. “It's bad for everyone except for Corizon's bottom line, and we as a community need to take some sort of stand against that."
When WTOC reached out to Corizon Health Monday, a representative said they couldn't comment on a patient's medical history, but they issued a statement that reads:

Our nurses, doctors and mid-level providers work hard every day in extremely difficult settings to provide the best possible medical care to patients who tend to be much less healthy than the general public. We have not seen this lawsuit, but due to patient privacy would not be able to comment specifically on any of our patients’ medical histories. It is, however, important to emphasize that the existence of a lawsuit is not necessarily indicative of quality of care or any wrongdoing. We can tell you that nationally about 80 percent of our closed lawsuits were dismissed by the courts, administratively closed or resulted in a judgment in favor of Corizon Health.

Of course this is just the beginning of this developing story. We'll keep you posted on any updates as we learn them. 

Read the full lawsuit below:

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