Every day when David Hall gets home from work, he puts a bag of ice on his left wrist to ease the swelling on a large red knot.
There’s no hope of regaining the mobility he once had. Hall lost 30% of his range of motion moving his wrist upward, and 90% downward. Semiregular surgeries, which he can’t afford, might relieve the pain temporarily, but it wouldn’t restore movement, Hall said.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Hall fought for years in court against the private correctional health care company he blames for botching the treatment of his fractured wrist in 2016, when he was incarcerated in Anne Arundel County.
In 2021, Hall won a $3 million jury award that was capped at nearly $800,000 by state law. But the forces behind Corizon Health, the company that owed Hall the money, had other plans. Days after he won his case, in February 2023, Corizon declared bankruptcy.
For the last 7 1/2 years, anything that requires two hands — typing on a computer, washing dishes — has been a difficult chore for Hall. Every day at work for a food service company, he relies on the right side of his body to do the heavy lifting, carrying boxes of tomatoes and other food items that weigh as much as 50 pounds.
“I’m in pain every day after work,” Hall said. “But I have no other choice.”
Hall’s wrist injury dates back to July 2016, when he got into a fight and fractured his wrist at the Ordnance Road Correctional Center in Glen Burnie. The fracture was serious, but the jail’s medical director, who worked for Corizon Health, gave Hall an Ace bandage, telling him the injury would “self-heal,” according to court records.
Over the next several weeks, Hall filed five grievances with the jail, expressing concern that he did not receive proper treatment and that his wrist would not heal correctly. He was taken to see an orthopedic specialist a month later. The doctor concluded he would require “extensive surgery from a hand surgeon.”
Faced with his disability, Hall sued Corizon Health in April 2019, winning his case in a jury trial in October 2021. He was awarded $3 million in damages, but state law capped the award at $770,000. Corizon appealed, which took another year.
In February 2023, an appellate judge filed an opinion upholding the trial. But the relief Hall might have felt from that decision lasted only a couple of days. That’s when Corizon declared bankruptcy.
“You think you’re finally getting closure,” Hall said. “And then, it’s, ‘Oh, no. We have no plans on paying you, or anybody.’”
A bankruptcy with local and national implications
Hall is hardly alone in his situation. He’s part of a class of creditors now wrapped up in the company formerly known as Corizon’s notorious Texas bankruptcy case.
The correctional health care giant has drawn scrutiny from private equity watchdogs and the media for its maneuvers. It converted into a Texas company before splitting into two entities — Tehum Care Services, which was saddled with debt and is now bankrupt, and the other entity, now known as YesCare, that is retaining contracts worth hundreds of millions.
The bankruptcy has major implications for Maryland, as well. Maryland hired what was then known as Corizon Health as its medical provider for state prisons and Baltimore jails in 2018 to a five-year, $680 million contract that is set to expire at the end of the year. The state corrections department has so far declined to comment on the bankruptcy.
Last month, a group of nine progressive U.S. senators called Corizon’s plan to execute its “Texas Two-Step” a “misuse” of the bankruptcy system that will result in the denial of hundreds of claims by incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people over substandard care.
The company’s plan and its tactics, they said, was “further called into question given the secret romantic relationship between the judge mediating the plan negotiations and the attorney representing YesCare in the negotiations.”
“The bankruptcy system has many aims, but it was not designed to provide an avenue for companies to evade accountability for wrongdoing,” the senators, including Elizabeth Warren, Richard Durbin and Cory Booker, wrote in a letter to the company. “Your company, however, is attempting to do just that, utilizing the ‘Texas Two-Step’ to position yourselves to pay pennies on the dollar to claimants that deserve recompense for poor health outcomes and unpaid debts accrued under your watch.”
To navigate the bankruptcy, Hall and his attorney hired a Texas attorney. None of them are particularly optimistic about their prospects.
“I already won the money, but from everything I read, it says they’re only going to give us $5,000 apiece,” Hall said. “That’s not even going to cover my medical bills.”
Yoseph Orshan, Hall’s attorney, said that Corizon conceded liability and never hired an expert during the trial, which he described as “basically unheard of.”
“My impression was that they didn’t want to spend money on this case,” he said. “They didn’t care what the judgment was going to be, because they didn’t have any intention of paying it.”
An email to an address listed as a media contact for Corizon Health was returned by the media inbox of YesCare. That email nonetheless insisted that the Banner’s “inquiry references a Corizon litigation matter and is unrelated to YesCare.”
”Corizon inquiries should be made directly to Corizon,” the statement said.
Orshan said the bankruptcy attorney in Texas recently forwarded them an offer from a financial firm willing to buy out the debt owed to Hall for a cash payment of $3,550.
“The bankruptcy attorney actually considered that good news,” Orshan said, “The fact that someone is even willing to dip their toe into that water.”
For Hall, every day at work is a reminder of how things went awry. His wrist makes each shift painful.
He did get one surgery: a carpal tunnel release procedure that alleviated the pain for about six months, he said. But then it came back, and it was worse than before.
“I just can’t afford to keep getting repetitive surgeries,” Hall said.