A federal judge granted class-action status to prisoners suing Oregon state officials over their treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to February article by The Associated Press.
Gov. Kate Brown, Oregon Department of Correction Director Colette Peters, and Health Authority Director Patrick Allen were among the state officials named in the suit.
Data from the Oregon Department of Corrections showed more than 5,000 incarcerated people had tested positive for COVID-19 and 45 prisoners have died so far.
Judge Stacie Beckerman certified the wrongful death class-action lawsuit to include two classes: those who died of COVID-19 while in custody, and those who were diagnosed with COVID-19 during custody after Feb. 1, 2020.
“This really is quite a groundbreaking order, and decision, and it could potentially be a model for advocates in other parts of the country where they have similar problems,” said Corene Kendrick, deputy director of the ACLU’s National Prison Project, to the Oregon Public Broadcasting.
Oregon could appeal the certification ruling, settle out of court, or take the case to trial. State officials declined to comment on pending litigation at the time of this story.
The lawsuit recognizes Corrections has implemented some protective measures, but argues these have not been adequate and the deaths were preventable.