Plaintiff Dies, Lawsuit Lives

Jul 11, 2019

Earlier this year, lawyers went to court on behalf of a 39-year-old woman at the Fluvanna Correctional Center. They told a federal judge that she had been hospitalized three times, because nurses at the prison had not properly administered medication.  Now, the woman has died, but the Legal Aid Justice Center is asking the court to hear her case anyway. 

Margie Ryder would have been freed in less than three months. Instead, she died in the custody of Virginia's Department of Corrections.
Credit Margie Ryder

Margie Ryder was serving two years in prison for stealing, but that may have been a death sentence, because critics say healthcare at the Fluvanna Correctional Center is inadequate.  Shannon Ellis is with the Legal Aid Justice Center.  In May, she filed an urgent motion -- telling a federal judge that her client suffered a dangerous lung disease and was in desperate need of competent medical care.

“A woman who depends on a life-saving medication that has to be administered every two days, who has been hospitalized at UVA and at VCU multiple times because of  failures to have her medication available, failures to have the pump necessary to administer it, administration of the medication in incorrect amounts so that she has symptoms of toxicity,” she explained.

Ellis asked the court to make the Virginia Department of Corrections train and oversee licensed practical nurses in providing the drug Ryder needed to survive. Now, however, Ryder has died, but Legal Aid isn’t giving up.  In a note to the judge lawyers wrote: “Plaintiffs have received concerning information regarding Ms. Ryder’s care at Fluvanna prior to her final hospitalization and are investigating the situation.

Noting three women under the age of 40 have died since they filed an emergency motion in May, Legal Aid said the relief requested on Ryder’s behalf remains urgently necessary.