Family sues over death of Georgia inmate who begged for care

The family of a Georgia inmate who died after complaining of heart problems while locked up for two months is suing the sheriff in charge of the jail and the for-profit company that provides its health care.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Savannah accuses acting Chatham County Sheriff Roy Harris, contractor Corizon Health Inc. and other defendants of ignoring medical evidence that 32-year-old inmate Matthew Loflin had symptoms of congestive heart failure and needed to be hospitalized.

Loflin was jailed on felony and misdemeanor drug charges Feb. 6, 2014, local media outlets reported. During the next two months guards found Loflin passed out in his cell several times and nurses reported he complained of shortness of breath and severe pain.

The lawsuit said Loflin and his parents asked several times that he be taken to a hospital, but the sheriff's staff and Corizon officials refused. It says he was only hospitalized after seeing an outside cardiologist who immediately had him taken to the emergency room April 7, 2014. Loflin died at Memorial Health University Medical Center two weeks later.

"Matthew Loflin died because defendants were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical need," said the lawsuit filed Monday. "Corizon, by and through its agents, chose to protect its own profits rather than preserve Mr. Loflin's life."

Tennessee-based Corizon issued a statement saying it would not comment on specifics of the civil suit.

"It is important to emphasize that the existence of a lawsuit is not necessarily indicative of quality of care or any wrongdoing," the company's statement said. "...We are confident in the care we provided."

Harris served as chief deputy to then-Sheriff Al St. Lawrence when Loflin was jailed in 2014. Harris was named acting sheriff when St. Lawrence died last year.

Corizon, the largest private provider of health care to U.S. prisons and jails, has come under intense scrutiny in recent years following complaints about poor quality of inmate care. The company has lost prison contracts with at least five states since 2012. New York City also severed ties with Corizon last summer.