Family of inmate who died at Maine State Prison files suit, alleges medical negligence

Fri, 02/05/2021 - 2:00pm

    The family of a Maine State Prison inmate who died in 2018 has filed suit claiming that medical providers were negligent in treating an infection that caused his death.

    The lawsuit was filed Jan. 19, 2021, in Cumberland County Superior Court by the family of Andrew Leighton, the deceased inmate. It alleges that Wellpath, LLC, a registered Maine corporation that contracts with the Maine Department of Corrections to provide medical services, failed to meet the standard of care required for the man.

    Leighton who was 51 when he died, was serving a straight 27-year sentence for murder, according to a news release from the Maine Department of Corrections on Oct. 1, 2018, confirming his death. Leighton was sentenced in Cumberland County in January 2015.

    Attorneys for the family members on behalf of Leighton are Susan A. Faunce and Christopher C. Boots of Berman and Simmons, P.A. in Lewiston.

    According to the lawsuit, in July 2018, Leighton was examined by a dentist at the prison after he reported pain in his left lower molar, which had spread to adjacent molars. The dentist took bite wing x-rays, adjusted an occlusion and told the inmate to report any additional pain, the complaint said. Beginning in late August, Leighton said he was experiencing “excruciating pain in his teeth, nose, ear, and neck” and was again examined and prescribed a 10-day course of penicillin.

    Leighton continued taking prescription medications and also reported an increase of pain resulting in swollen lymph nodes and difficulty with opening his mouth, breathing and swallowing, the lawsuit states.

    A nurse found a mass the size of a “golf ball” located on Leighton’s throat and allegedly did not contact a physician to discuss her observations.

    The lawsuit states that Leighton continued to have difficulty breathing and asked to be admitted to the infirmary, which the nurse allegedly denied.

    Leighton was found unresponsive and not breathing in his cell on Oct. 1, 2018. He was not revived by CPR and was pronounced dead.

    According to the lawsuit, the autopsy conducted by the State of Maine Chief Medical Examiner’s Office concluded that Leighton’s death was caused by acute inflammation at the base of the tongue including sepsis and a pus-filled liquid mass at the same location. 

    The plaintiffs are alleging in the suit that Wellpath, “failed to meet the standard of care of reasonable competent medical providers in the care provided to Andrew Leighton.”

    They further claim that the negligence included not conducting the appropriate examinations, tests and evaluations with a specialist, lack of coordination and communication among the personnel and not employing qualified staff to treat the inmate for a period of July 2018 through October 2018.

    “As a result of the delay in diagnosis and treatment, the infection progressed and caused Andrew’s death,” the lawsuit claims.

    The family of Leighton is seeking compensatory damages for pain and suffering, medical and funeral expenses and all remedies available under Maine law for a wrongful death.

    Sarah Shepherd can be reached at