U.S. to Pay $1.95 Million to Family of Medically Neglected Immigration Detainee

U.S. to Pay $1.95 Million to Family of Medically Neglected Immigration Detainee

The United States has agreed to pay $1.95 million to the daughter and estate of Francisco Castaneda, an immigrant detainee who died from penile cancer that federal authorities had refused to diagnose or treat during his nearly 11 months in their custody.  Castaneda died in February 2008, one year after his penis was amputated in an attempt to stop the cancer from spreading.

The payment will settle a federal lawsuit alleging that Castaneda died as a result of the government’s medical negligence, health care policies for immigrant detainees that failed to meet correctional industry standards, and intentional disregard of Castaneda’s serious medical needs.  The case – filed by Public Justice in November 2007 – had been scheduled for trial beginning on April 26.

Public Justice Managing Attorney Adele Kimmel said not only does the settlement “represent vindication for the Castaneda family,” but the Castaneda case helped shed light on serious problems regarding the medical treatment of immigrant detainees.

Castaneda was one of several former detainees or detainees’ relatives who told an October 2007 House subcommittee hearing about immigration officials’ mistreatment or neglect of detainees’ serious medical conditions.

To settle a class action lawsuit by detainees, the U.S. government agreed in December to specific improvements in medical care at the San Diego Correctional Facility, where Castaneda had been detained for eight months.  Since then, the government has taken steps to change the policies nationwide so that all detainees will get better care.

“Mr. Castaneda had hoped that his case would lead to better health care for immigrant detainees,” said Kimmel, co-lead counsel for the Castanedas.  “His family is taking some comfort in knowing that his ordeal has made a difference.”

The settlement in Castaneda v. United States will become final once approved by the federal district court in Los Angeles and will resolve the Castanedas’ claims against the United States and federal employee George Molinar, who was the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officer-in-charge at one of the federal detention facilities where Francisco was held.

“This historic settlement is recognition by our government that every human life has value,” said Conal Doyle, co-lead counsel for the Castaneda family.  “Mr. Castaneda’s story has been a catalyst for the reform of immigrant detainee healthcare and has therefore impacted the human rights of people worldwide.”

Read the original San Francisco Chronicle story on the settlement, as well as details on our other Civil Rights case work.

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