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

Washington Settles Prisoners Medical Indifference Suit for $370,000

Washington Settles Prisoners Medical Indifference Suit for $370,000

by Michael Rigby

In October 2005, the State of Washington settled for $370,000 a prisoners federal lawsuit in which he alleged that indifferent medical treatment proximately resulted in a stroke that left him permanently disabled. The settlement was reached after a district court denied summary judgment to all but one defendant.

Gerard Marcotte, a Washington state prisoner, reported to the infirmary of the Monroe Corrections Complex (MCC) on June 12, 2001, complaining of shaking, weak knees, sweating, numbness in his thighs, and black and silver spots in his field of vision. Marcotte reported to physicians assistant John Loranger that he had experienced similar but milder episodes in the past. Marcotte had also been diagnosed as having high blood pressure by prison medical personnel and was taking Atenolol, a anti-hypertension drug.
Loranger found that Marcottes blood pressure was high, 154/94 (it had been 189/96 eight days earlier during an unrelated examination). Loranger also noted an abnormal noise in Marcottes carotid artery (technically, a right side carotid bruit). After running lab tests, Loranger determined that Marcotte had not suffered a stroke even though the tests showed high cholesterol and LDL (low-density lipoprotein) levels, and despite his medical history of hypertension, tobacco use, and diabetes. MCC medical personnel made no effort to follow up on Marcotte.

On September 11, 2001, Marcotte collapsed and was taken to the prison infirmary. Marcotte says he told Rosemary Fitzer, a registered nurse, that the entire left side of his body was numb. Fitzer took his blood pressure (160/90) and performed an electrocardiogram (EKG) which she interpreted as normal. After allegedly threatening Marcotte with the hole if he continued to fake his symptoms, Fitzer sent him back to his dorm with instructions to drink more water and reduce his smoking.

The next morning Marcottes left side was paralyzed and he couldnt walk. He was taken to a local hospital where doctors determined he had suffered an acute stroke due to an occluded right-side carotid artery. The stroke left Marcotte permanently disabled, with impaired motor skills and functioning.

Marcotte sued the State of Washington, MCC, Loranger, Fitzer, Superintendent Robert Moore, doctor John Kenney, and various John Does under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state tort law. He alleged the defendants responses to his medical needs were inappropriate and proximately caused his stroke.

Defendants moved for summary judgment. After concluding the four personal defendants were being sued in their individual capacities, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington held that fact issues as to whether the defendants acted with deliberate indifference prevented summary judgment to all but Loranger. Judge James Robart further held that a jury could reasonably find Moore and Kenney liable in their supervisory capacity and that disputed material facts prevented the court from making a determination regarding qualified immunity. See: Marcotte v. Monroe Corrections Complex, 394 F.Supp.2d 1289 (W.D.WA 2005).

Following Robarts ruling, the State settled for $370,000. Marcotte was represented by Tacoma attorney Darrell Cochran, of Gordon, Thomas, Honeywell. See: Marcotte v. Monroe Corrections Complex, USDC WD WA, Case No. C04-1925JLR.

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

Marcotte v. Monroe Corrections Complex