Record Settlement for Tragic Death of 21-Year-Old Man from Untreated Appendicitis in Oklahoma State Prison

  • December 5, 2023

December 5, 2023 – ECBAWM and co-counsel have secured a record settlement for the family of Joshua England, a 21-year-old man who died in an Oklahoma state prison from untreated appendicitis.  The settlement was approved on November 27, 2023 for distribution by the Major County District Court.  On May 23, 2023, the Oklahoma State legislature formally approved a $1,050,000.00 million settlement to Mr. England’s family to resolve their pending federal civil rights action.  The State of Oklahoma’s payment to Mr. England’s family is the largest known settlement resulting from the death of an incarcerated person in the custody of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (“DOC”).

Mr. England died in May 2018 of untreated appendicitis while he was incarcerated by the Oklahoma DOC at the Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington, Oklahoma.  Mr. England had reported severe abdominal pain and other symptoms typical of appendicitis during five visits to the prison’s medical center in the week before his death.  Prison medical staff ignored his complaints and failed to respond to his pleas for help.

Joshua, who was only 21 when he died, “should have never been in prison in the first place,” according ECBAWM partner Katherine Rosenfeld and co-counsel Paul DeMuro. “He was imprisoned for a minor, non-violent property offense, he had no felony record, he was to be released in a few months, and he died alone in agonizing pain on the concrete floor of his cellblock because of an entirely treatable and preventable condition.  If the State of Oklahoma is intent on locking up so many of its citizens for non-violent offenses, the State needs to devote far more resources and attention to its correctional system to fulfill its constitutional obligation to provide basic medical care for people in its custody.”  The lawyers also stated that “Joshua’s family continues to mourn his loss each day, but they hope that this settlement spurs the State to care for each person in its custody, so no other family loses their child.”

Joshua England’s mother Christina D. Smith was represented by firm lawyers Katherine Rosenfeld and Emily Wanger, along with Paul DeMuro of Frederic Dorwart Lawyers, PLLC.

“Oklahoma lawmakers sign off on $1M settlement over inmate’s death,” AP News
“Lawmakers move forward with adopting $1.05M settlement for family of dead inmate,” KFOR Oklahoma’s News
“Oklahoma agrees to $1 million wrongful death lawsuit settlement involving ill inmate,” The Oklahoman