ALC sues ACJ Medical Director, medical staff, and former Deputy Warden, Laura Williams, for ADA violations, unconstitutional medical care, and medical malpractice that caused amputation of Pittsburgh man’s leg
PITTSBURGH – On March 24, 2022 the Abolitionist Law Center (ALC) filed a lawsuit against Allegheny County Jail’s (ACJ) Medical Director, Dr. Donald Stechshulte, its former Deputy Warden, Laura Williams, and medical staff members, on behalf of Clayton McCray, a formerly incarcerated man who had an infected open-wound on his right heel and was routinely denied standard medical care, prescribed medical devices, outside treatment, and other deprivations for a year ultimately requiring him to have a right below the knee amputation when he was 26 years old.
According to the complaint, throughout McCray’s year-long pretrial detention on a probation violation from 2019-2020, the ACJ administration, doctors and staff knowingly subjected him to inhumane conditions and denied him prescribed medical treatments. McCray developed physical disabilities in his foot after suffering a gunshot wound to his spine in 2011. While McCray was incarcerated in two Pennsylvania state prisons from 2018 to the fall of 2019, he developed a small neuropathic ulcer or wound on his right heel. The prison staff provided McCray wound care and debridement treatments to heal the wound and prescribed him assistive or medical devices such as an orthotic shoe, brace, etc and other accommodations to prevent McCray’s wound from becoming exacerbated and allowing him to walk safely. However, when McCray arrived at ACJ in September of 2019, ACJ staff confiscated his medical devices (orthotic shoe and AFO brace) and continued to deny or severely limit his use of them despite ACJ receiving McCray’s medical records from the two prisons, that confirmed his disability accommodations and need for prescribed medical devices for the neuropathic ulcer on his heel. At Defendants’ direction or under their supervision, ACJ staff denied McCray critical medical care and accommodations:
Instead of being placed in a cell with disability access, McCray was either forced into solitary confinement or placed in housing that lacked access to medical support and prevented him from using his medical devices. Due to Defendants, McCray did not receive daily wound care and regular debridement treatments as prescribed by outside doctors and recommended by the Federal Bureau of Prisons wound care guidelines. McCray was routinely denied pain medication, antibiotics and adequate nutrition by ACJ medical personnel, and was barred by Williams from being examined by an outside specialist onsite at the jail. On many occasions, McCray was often forced to “hop on one foot or crawl to his cell door to retrieve his meals and medications,” when his medical devices—orthotic shoe, crutches, cane or wheelchair—were unjustifiably confiscated by jail guards.
“All patients, regardless of the environment or circumstances, deserve to be cared for and given the best medical care, to the best of our ability with the resources that are available,” says Charles E. Timbers Jr., a nurse practitioner and former employee of ACJ who has advocated for incarcerated community members who’ve endured neglect and malpractice under Williams. “Incarcerated people are human beings. They deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. It is our duty as healthcare professionals.”
Because Defendants denied McCray prescribed medical care, medical devices, and accommodations, his foot infection worsened into a life-threatening bone infection (osteomyelitis), and eventually required McCray to undergo an amputation of his lower right leg in September 2020.
“No mother wants to see her child suffer. It kills me what they did to him. He had prescribed shoes and a brace; they took it away from him. He had wound care treatments he needed; they didn’t give it to him,” says Nicole Woodson, the mother of Clayton McCray. “I called every one possible at the jail, and they ignored me. Because they denied him medical care, my son is suffering a lifetime of pain.”
The lawsuit alleges Allegheny County and ACJ’s former Deputy Warden Laura Williams, current Medical Director Dr. Donald Stechshulte, physician Dr. Nancy Park, ACJ’s Assistant Director of Nursing Jen Kelly, along with physician’s assistant Natalie Austin violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, McCray’s Fourteenth Amendment rights, and committed medical malpractice from 2019 and 2020.
McCray is now seeking compensation for his injuries including the permanent loss of his right lower leg, significant pain and distress, severe mental anguish, and compensation for his future medical expenses.
The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Plaintiff Clayton McCray is represented by Jaclyn Kurin and Bret Grote of the Abolitionist Law Center.
“Health care in jails and prisons is terrible. The pandemic made it even worse.” Vox (06/26/2022)
“Former Allegheny County Jail inmate speaks out about jail, its staff” – WPXI – Channel 11 NBC Pittsburgh (04/08/2022)
“Man suing Allegheny County Jail for loss of leg starts GoFundMe” Pittsburgh City Paper (03/31/2022)
“Former Allegheny County Jail inmate files lawsuit alleging mistreatment leading to leg amputation” –WPXI – Channel 11 NBC Pittsburgh (03/29/2022)
“Ex-prisoner says Allegheny County Jail’s lack of care caused him to lose his leg” – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (03/29/2022)
“Lawsuit says lack of treatment at Allegheny County Jail led to leg amputation” – Pittsburgh Tribune Review (03/28/2022)