Snohomish County has agreed to pay a former jail inmate $50,000 to settle a federal civil-rights lawsuit alleging jail medical officials delayed providing him treatment for a badly fitting prosthetic leg because it would cost too much, at one point taking the limb away from him.
Dylan James Downey was booked into the jail in 2016 on vehicular-assault charges stemming from a July 2014 motorcycle accident that severely injured a passenger and resulted in the traumatic amputation of his left leg. Downey required significant medical attention because of his prosthesis and surgical hardware — plates and screws — that were holding his other leg together as a result of injuries suffered in the crash, according to court records.
Downey was seen by jail medical officials on his arrival December 2016. According to his lawsuit, he informed them that his prosthesis was painful and needed to be adjusted and fitted with a new socket to accommodate his stump, or he risked future complications that could require surgery to fix. The lawsuit notes that a new socket could cost as much as $13,000.
Downey asked to see a prostheticist “before the situation deteriorated to a point where the leg was no longer usable,” the complaint says.
Instead, according to the lawsuit, the jail over the year delayed treatment for his increasing pain. Jail officials gave him pads to stuff into the ill-fitting socket and, at one point, took the leg away for more than three weeks.
Downey claimed he was told that the jail was “unwilling to pay for” his treatment and wanted him to wait until he was transferred into the custody of the state Department of Corrections so the state could pick up the tab.
Downey initially filed the complaint himself; however, U.S. District Judge John Coughenour appointed the Seattle law firm Davis Wright Tremaine to represent him. Attorney Chris Morley, one of a team of lawyers who handled the claim, said Downey did nothing more than seek medical treatment the county should have provided him while in its custody.
The lawsuit states Downey did not receive a newly fitted socket until April 2018, after he was in the state’s custody, but he continued to have problems because of the county’s failure to act. The lawsuit alleged the county violated Downey’s civil rights by “prioritizing cost savings over inmate health.”
A telephone message seeking comment from Snohomish County was not returned Thursday.