A federal judge in Maryland dismissed an inmate’s Maryland medical malpractice deliberate indifference claim that correctional officials violated his Eighth Amendment rights when they failed to properly assess and care for his medical needs while he was incarcerated in federal prison in Maryland.
The plaintiff’s federal Maryland medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that the prison officials showed deliberate indifference toward him by failing to provide adequate accommodations for his medical issues that led to his fatal heart attack. In order to succeed in such a claim, the plaintiff needed to show more than inadvertent failure or negligence in diagnosis and treatment – the plaintiff needed to show a serious deprivation of a basic human need and that the prison officials had a sufficiently culpable state of mind. The federal judge determined that the plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment claims were rooted in nothing more than speculation and that the plaintiff had failed to show deliberate indifference toward him.
However, the federal judge allowed the plaintiff’s medical negligence claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act to move forward.
The plaintiff was serving a 97-month sentence for securities fraud when he was transferred from a federal prison in Massachusetts to the Maryland federal correctional facility. At the time of his intake into the Maryland federal prison, a nurse noted the plaintiff’s cardiac history and prescribed medications. However, the nurse failed to prescribe any special accommodations in light of the plaintiff’s medical history, including restricting him to light-duty work assignments, which lack of restrictions was approved by two physicians at the correctional facility.
On July 17, 2013, the plaintiff suffered his third heart attack after working a full shift outside as a groundskeeper during a heatwave. The plaintiff complained of chest pains after he returned to his housing unit, and he was pronounced dead at 6:45 p.m. that evening.
The defendants alleged that the plaintiff never complained of heart-related issues during appointments with prison medical staff, and that the plaintiff’s supervisor was unfamiliar with his medical conditions. The plaintiff’s Maryland federal medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that the prison medical staff should have known that people such as the plaintiff who have significant cardiac histories are at risk when working outside in extreme heat conditions. The federal judge determined that the plaintiff’s claim was more in line with a medical negligence claim as opposed to a deliberate indifference claim based on the defendants’ actual knowledge.
Source Dorothy F. Gardner, et al., v. U.S., et al., 1:15-cv-02874-JKB.
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