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Guard Awarded $515,813 Against Private Medical Provider

A Florida Jury awarded a Martin County Jail guard, Ronald Keeler, $515,813 against a private medical provider. Keeler sued Correctional Physician Services (CPS), who provided medical care to jail prisoners, and New Horizons of the Treasure Coast, Inc., who was a subcontractor to provide mental health services to prisoners. Prisoner Jonathan Brown began to act strangely in his cell and was handcuffed to be taken to the medical unit. During the escort to medical, Brown became involved in an altercation with guards and was subdued.

After being examined by medical for minor injuries to his wrists from the handcuffs, Brown was taken to the booking area, where he was to await processing of paperwork to be "Baker Acted", which is Florida's involuntary mental health commitment act, and await transfer to a mental health unit. Brown was placed in a restraint chair, but several minutes later removed so a nurse could administer a shot of Haladal in his buttock. At his request, Brown was allowed to lay prone on a bench in the holding cell. A surveillance video showed the cell door remained fully open with Brown restrained by handcuffs to the front of his body only.

A guard later came around the corner to the holding cell, at which time Brown launched himself out the door into the guard. Several guards, including Keeler, took action to subdue Brown. During the struggle, Keeler received an injury to his right shoulder that required surgery and a severe facial laceration. He was forced to resign because of his injuries.

The guard alleged New Horizons negligently breached its duty to provide medical/mental health care to Brown. CPS had placed Brown on a mental health log for New Horizons to see him several times. New Horizons needed to see him so he could receive his medication of Depakote twice a day to treat his bipolar disorder. New Horizons argued it never saw Brown because there was no indication it needed to see him. Moreover, New Horizons asserted the Jail was at fault for failing to exercise proper use of force and restraint measures against Brown.

Prior to trial Keeler, dismissed CPS as a defendant. The jury found New Horizons 100% negligent and awarded Keeler $26,351.08 _ past medical expenses; $27,812 _ past loss of earnings; $211,650 _ present and future lost earning ability (intended to cover 17 years); $150,000 _ past pain and suffering; $100,000 future pain and suffering. For prison and jail staff, this theory of liability is a good avenue of relief against private medical providers. Keeler was represented by Richard M. Benrubi of West Palm Beach. See: Keeler v. New Horizons, Inc., Martin County, Florida, Case No: 00-630-CA.

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Related legal case

Keeler v. New Horizons, Inc.