A federal jury in Pennsylvania recently found that the defendant prison health care provider, the defendant prison physician, and the defendant prison nurses were not only medically negligent but were also deliberately indifferent to a prisoner’s medical needs that led to his suicide in his prison cell. The federal jury awarded approximately $1 million for the deliberate indifference claim and $2.8 million for the medical negligence claim against all of the defendants, and $8 million in punitive damages against the prison health care provider.
The prison inmate was incarcerated for assault and burglary. The plaintiff’s prison medical malpractice lawsuit claimed that the prison maintained inaccurate records for the inmate, including misspelling his name and stating that the inmate was taking Prozac to treat his depression instead of Paxil. The plaintiff alleged that the inmate was not given his antidepressant medication on time and did not receive appropriate care from the prison’s on-call psychiatrist. The plaintiff alleged that the inmate even asked the arraignment judge to do something to make sure he received his medications. As a result of the lack of appropriate and timely medical care, the inmate suffered withdrawal symptoms from not getting his proper medication as prescribed, and his mental condition and depression rapidly declined.
The prison ultimately provided the inmate with Paxil but his behavior was later described as being bizarre, including pacing in his cell. The following day, the inmate was found dead in his cell, having committed suicide by rolling up a shirt and placing it in his throat.
The defendant prison health care provider alleged that it had determined at the time the inmate was first incarcerated that he was not at risk for suicide. The defendant prison health care provider further alleged that on the same day that the inmate’s bizarre behavior was observed, a mental health worker interviewed the inmate and found that the inmate became more relaxed as the interview progressed. After the interview, the mental health worker allegedly referred the inmate to a psychiatrist to rule out depression and adjustment disorder, but did not find the inmate to be suicidal and noted that the inmate did not complain that he was not receiving his medications.
The plaintiff’s lawyer stated after the federal jury returned its verdict in favor of his client, “I represent a wonderful family who had a lot of questions about the loss of a husband and father. I’m thrilled we were able to get their questions answered through this trial.”
If you or a loved one were injured due to deliberate indifference or the lack of appropriate medical care while incarcerated in a prison, jail, or other correctional facility in Pennsylvania or in another U.S. state, you should promptly seek the legal advice of a local medical malpractice lawyer in your state who handles prisoner/inmate medical malpractice claims and may investigate your claim and represent you, if appropriate.
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