District Court Certifies COVID-19 Prison Case as Class Action

Earlier this year, the U.S. District Court in Oregon certified two classes in Maney et al. v. Brown et al., our COVID-19 lawsuit against the Oregon Department of Corrections, the Oregon Health Authority, and state officials overseeing the COVID-19 response in Oregon’s prison system. The first class, which includes more than 5300 people, includes all adults in custody between February 1, 2020, and May 31, 2022, who tested positive for or were otherwise diagnosed with COVID-19 while they were in custody. The second class includes the estates of those who died while in custody and for whom COVID-19 caused or contributed to their death. Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, ODOC has announced that at least 48 people suffered COVID-19-related deaths while they were confined in Oregon’s prisons.

Both classes seek damages for Eighth Amendment and state-law violations in failing to provide adequate medical care, failing to implement and enforce social distancing and masking measures, and continuing to confine without the capacity to treat, test, or prevent the spread of COVID-19. The district court certified the classes under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(3), finding that individualized questions of damages and causation do not predominate over questions common to the class, and that class treatment for both classes would be superior to and more manageable than thousands of individual liability trials, even if group or individual trials are later required to determine individualized damages. In its order certifying the classes, the court also bifurcated the trial of the class claims in two phases.

In early 2021, the district court in Maney issued an order requiring Governor Kate Brown and the Oregon Health Authority to prioritize adults in custody for COVID-19 vaccine distribution at the same level as others living in congregate living settings.

If you are a class member and would like more information about the status of the class action, please visit ODOCcovidclassaction.com.

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