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Prosecuting Attorney

Posted on: March 8, 2019

Conmed Inc. sues Pierce County, but County wins $1.56 million judgment

Gavel with scales and books

After Conmed Inc. initiated a lawsuit against Pierce County, a jury Thursday found in favor of the County and awarded it a financial judgment. The Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office not only prevailed in its counterclaim against Conmed, it obtained a $1.56 million judgment against the company after it failed to provide quality medical care at the Pierce County jail.

“Conmed was inadequate in fulfilling its contract – hoping that government wasn’t paying attention,” said deputy prosecuting attorney Dan Hamilton. “Well, Pierce County and the Sheriff’s Department were paying attention. We won’t let any company pad its profits by shirking its duties.”

The case involved a 2014 contract with Conmed to provide medical care to inmates at the Pierce County Correction and Detention Center. Almost immediately, the Corrections Bureau of the Sheriff’s Department became concerned with Conmed’s understaffing of medical personnel at the jail and the resulting effect it had on the quality of care the company provided.

Based on Conmed’s representations that care would improve, the County continued to fulfill its financial obligations under the contract for 14 months. When inmate care did not improve despite the County’s warnings, in April 2015 Pierce County began withholding payment to compel Conmed to perform under the contract. After four months without meaningful improvement, the County terminated the contract in August 2015.

Conmed later sued Pierce County for withholding payment for four months. The County filed a counterclaim, arguing that for 14 months it paid Conmed under the contract while the company failed to perform its contract promises.

Jurors agreed yesterday with the County’s position and awarded it a $1.56 million judgment.

“I think jurors could see that the Sheriff’s Department provided strong oversight every step of the way,” said deputy prosecuting attorney Kristal Cowger. “The sheriff’s staff saw that Conmed wasn’t living up to its promises, they knew it wasn’t right, and they didn’t let it go. The Sheriff’s Department stuck up for quality inmate care and for the taxpayers.”

Added Hamilton, “I’m proud of our team and the hard work they put in on this case. This outcome sets a strong example: If a company fails to do what is promised, there are repercussions. Pierce County will not simply shrug and move on, but will do what’s right for the people we serve.”

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