The following press release details the human rights aspect of Valley Fever litigation that is often ignored.
VALLEY FEVER PRISONERS FILE $62M
INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS CLAIM
San Diego, CA – November 26, 2019
In the wake of the US Supreme Court’s October 7, 2019 denial of their request for their case to be heard, the valley fever prisoners are continuing the battle on the international level.
Today, 62 African-American victims of the disease, debilitated during a 2004-2014 valley fever epidemic in the San Joaquin Valley that California state prison officials ignored, filed a $62,000,000 federal tort claim alleging violations of their international human rights.
African-American prisoners are especially susceptible to the disease as a matter of biological bad luck, and were especially victimized during the epidemic by a trifecta of official misconduct:
(i) racial discrimination infecting every aspect of the US and California criminal justice system (partly documented in a March, 2018 UN Report titled “Report of The Sentencing Project…on Contemporary Forms of Racism”) that resulted in them being illegitimately and disproportionately targeted, arrested, incarcerated and thus involuntarily housed at the two most cocci infested prisons;
(ii) an inexplicable 8-year delay in moving them out of harm’s way from the State’s reckless construction decisions, despite warnings by the California state health department and many others, and only after compulsion by a federal court order in 2013;
(iii) general inadequacy of the medical care system in California’s prisons, which prioritized (poor) treatment over prevention, as reflected by the fact that its entire system has been in receivership since 2005 and remains so now one score and four years later.
Perhaps the government is concerned by the risk that if it were to give the prisoners their day in court, the trial would be simple and severe, by little more than the presentation of one explanatory chart. After all, a picture is worth 1,000 words:
VF INCIDENCE RATE / 100K
In 2016, a jury was not sympathetic to the government’s shifting defenses, when it awarded $12M to just four construction workers who contracted valley fever while working on a highway project. The state government acts like valley fever is no big deal, but this is not how the local population handles it – local businesses, local governments and that jury expect the matter to be zealously policed – and it is most definitely a big deal for those who contract it. It wrecks lives indiscriminately, from top performing athletes to our beloved dogs. Plaintiffs’ lives have been horribly altered, forever, from this incurable malady.
It does not help the situation that the government has so far denied the valley fever prisoners their day in court – effectively denied them even a chance for justice by dismissing a plausible claim without a trial – by a combination of misguided assumptions, fuzzy math, and the legal paradigm of qualified immunity. The Supreme Court wouldn’t touch us, perhaps worried that it would become infected with the disease through intellectual transmission, another installment of the government evading accountability for its worst decisions.
Meanwhile, the government’s star defense, the qualified immunity doctrine, cannot withstand any amount of scholarly scrutiny upon a study of its inner workings, and it is time for our government to reckon with this inescapable legal reality.
Once the prisoners’ FTCA claim is denied, they will initiate litigation.
-Benjamin Pavone, Esq.
Attorney for the Prisoners