Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

$2 Million Awarded in IL Medical Neglect Suit

On February 2, 2000, a federal jury in Illinois awarded $2 million in damages to a prisoner blinded through medical neglect by prison officials. The damage award is believed to be the highest in a prisoner civil rights case in Illinois.

Karl Williams, a prisoner at the Pontiac Correction Center in Illinois, was operating a trash compactor in 1995 when a hydraulic line broke loose and injured his left eye. Williams was immediately taken to the prison hospital but the doctor on duty was too busy to see him. Williams did not receive medical care for his eye for 90 days, by which time he was blind in that eye. After four surgeries, Williams lost his left eye and, due to infection and inflammation, is losing sight in his right eye as well.

Williams filed suit in federal court claiming the prison doctor, Ghansyam Patel, was deliberately indifferent to his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. After a two day trial and five hours of deliberation, the six member jury returned a verdict finding Dr. Patel liable for William's injury. The jury awarded Williams $1 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages.

Williams' attorney, Kathleen T. Zellner, told media: "I think they were sending a message on the punitives that you cannot ignore something this serious, even if the injured person is a felon. There's really no excuse for it." The Illinois attorney general's office, who represented Patel, declined to comment on the case.

A year before the claims against Patel went to trial, Williams settled his claims with Illinois Valley Disposal Services, the company that hooked up the hydraulic lines to the trash compactor. The company paid Williams $35,000 to settle the claims against it. See: Williams v. Patel, US DC, CD IL, Case No. 96-1369.

Source: Illinois Journal

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

Williams v. Patel