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Colo. DoC settles $8M civil rights lawsuit involving a prisoner’s medical care

The lawsuit alleged that assessment and treatment delays for pneumonia by medical staff led to the amputation of the inmate’s left hand and portions of his other limbs


By Katie Langford
The Denver Post

DENVER — A man who sued the Colorado Department of Corrections for inadequate medical care that led to the amputation of his left hand and portions of his other limbs will receive an $8 million settlement.

The federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Christopher Tanner in 2021 alleged that he developed pneumonia while incarcerated at the Denver Reception and Diagnostic Center in March 2020 but was not transferred to a hospital until he had deteriorated to the point of near death.

After Tanner reported feeling sick, Department of Corrections medical staff noted he had low blood oxygen levels, a 105.8-degree fever and other symptoms but did not initially transfer him to a hospital due to concerns about COVID-19, according to the lawsuit.

When his cellmate called for help 10 times throughout the night for a medical emergency, staff only responded three times, accused both men of lying and told them to stop pressing the emergency button.

Tanner was transferred to a hospital nearly 36 hours after his cellmate first tried to get emergency medical attention for him, according to the lawsuit, and was in respiratory failure and severe septic shock when he arrived at the hospital.

He remained in the hospital for three weeks and stayed at a rehabilitation facility for a month, after which he had amputations on all of his hands and feet because the medical treatment needed to save his life caused such extensive damage. His entire left hand, several fingers on his right hand and portions of both of his feet were amputated.

In a statement, Tanner said while he was responsible for the choices that led to his incarceration, he didn’t expect anything like this could happen.

“I am happy that the State of Colorado through this settlement has tried to set right how I was treated,” Tanner said. “I think that the majority of the public, (who) have no experience with the criminal justice system, would be shocked to learn how incarcerated people are often treated. I hope that by shining some light on my case, others will not have to go through what I went through.”

Colorado Department of Corrections spokesperson Alondra Gonzalez said the department did not have a comment on the settlement and referred to the settlement agreement, which was not available Tuesday.

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