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Family files lawsuit over death of inmate who didn't receive dialysis

Ramon C. Estrada, 62, died Sunday, April 5, 2015 at the Utah State Prison.
Ramon C. Estrada, 62, died Sunday, April 5, 2015 at the Utah State Prison.
Utah Department of Corrections

SALT LAKE CITY — Still without answers weeks after their father wasn't given dialysis treatment and died in prison, family members are suing a long list of prison and hospital employees.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court by Ramon C. Estrada's children says their father died due to "a shocking degree of deliberate indifference and reckless disregard" for his medical needs. Estrada, 62, died April 5 after a dialysis technician who provided treatment to several inmates didn't come to the Utah State Prison for two days.

On the third day without treatment, a Sunday, Estrada died of apparent cardiac arrest from renal failure as prison staff prepared to take him to University Hospital.

The civil rights lawsuit names Scott Crowther, Utah State Prison warden; Richard Garden, the prison's clinical services bureau director; University of Utah Health Care, which was contracted to provide dialysis at the prison; Arsalan Habib, medical director for the South Valley Dialysis clinic; and 20 staff members from the prison and the hospital who have not been identified.

"The family has not been able to get information about the investigation, about what exactly has happened here, so we're trying to piece it together from what little has trickled out from the prison and the hospital," Alyson McAllister, the family's attorney, said Friday.

Estrada's four adult children live in Texas.

A University of Utah Health Care report released April 22 found that two dialysis technicians had arranged to switch shifts for the weekend, but no one went to the prison to provide the treatments. The technician who agreed to cover the shift failed to note the change on his personal calendar. Investigations by the prison and Unified police are still underway, but little additional information has been released.

"The prison (staff) knew that this person was supposed to be there, and not only did this person not come, no one came," McAllister said. "It's more than just negligence, it's deliberate indifference."

Estrada's family claims they haven't received any updates from the prison about their investigation or what changes have been put in place to prevent a similar incident.

"It's been several months and they still don't know exactly what has happened," McAllister said. "Their two big concerns are finding out what happened and trying to make sure that it doesn't continue to happen."

In April, however, University of Utah Health Care officials said changes had been implemented, including an improved scheduling notification and alert system.

So far, none of the six additional inmates who were scheduled to receive treatments along with Estrada have contacted McAllister about the lawsuit.

The complaint doesn't specify an amount for monetary damages, but asks for compensation and punitive damages as well as costs for attorneys fees.

A spokeswoman for the prison said Friday that prison officials aren't commenting on the lawsuit because they haven't officially received it and are still conducting an internal investigation. A spokeswoman for University of Utah Health Care also declined to comment Friday.

Estrada, a citizen of Mexico, was just two weeks from parole when he died. He was sentenced to prison in August 2005 after being convicted of rape.

Email: mromero@deseretnews.com, Twitter: McKenzieRomero