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New York Prisoner Awarded $190,000 For Improperly Treated Knee Injury

On June 6, 2006, a court of claims in White Plains, New York, awarded $190,000 to a state prisoner who claimed prison staff was medically negligent in their treatment of his knee injury, thus causing him to undergo an unnecessary surgery and adding to his pain and suffering.
Claimant John Simmons, 37, felt his knees buckle while exercising on the recreation yard of the Sing Sing Correctional Facility on January 3, 1999. He was seen in the prison infirmary and then transported to St. Agnes Hospital where doctors prescribed him drugs and crutches. The examination report stated Simmons should see an orthopedist within a week. Simmons returned to the prison infirmary many times, and a physician assistant there twice requested an orthopedists appointment for him.

Some time later, during an unrelated hospitalization for tuberculosis, Simmons saw an orthopedist and an MRI was ordered. It did not show a torn meniscus. Simmons? pain continued and he was finally seen by an orthopedist that contracted with the state. That orthopedist, without reviewing the previous MRI, diagnosed a torn meniscus and operated to repair it. He later ordered an MRI, diagnosed a ruptured quadriceps, and recommended another surgery. Simmons refused.

Simmons sued the State of New York claiming that the medical staff?s failure to timely diagnose and treat his ruptured quadriceps constituted medical neglect. Expert orthopedists for both parties testified that the delay in follow up care and the medical contractor?s failure to review the earlier MRI deviated from the standard of care. Simmons specifically contended that the treatment and delayed diagnosis caused him permanent harm. His expert orthopedist testified that he cannot run, has an atrophied right thigh muscle, walks with a limp, and suffers pain.

Judge Terry Jane Ruderman found that the state was negligent in failing to send Simmons for a follow up and in failing to obtain the results of the initial MRI before examining Simmons. Ruderman further concluded that the state was at least partially negligent given the orthopedist?s testimony that he would not have operated for a torn meniscus if he had seen the first MRI.

Ruderman noted that even with Simmons? refusal as to the second surgery, his prognosis was very good. She concluded the state and Simmons were equally liable and awarded him a total of $190,000--$140,000 for past pain and suffering and $50,000 for future pain and suffering. Thus, Simmons actual award, after a 50% reduction, amounted to $95,000.

Simmons was represented by Howard B. Sherman of Nishman, Panken, Besterman, Winer, Becker, & Sherman in New York, New York. Orthopedic surgeon Hervey S. Sicherman, M.d. of Wayne, NJ, provided expert testimony for Simmons. See: Simmons v. State of New York, White Plains Court of Claims, Case No. 101023.

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Related legal case

Simmons v. State of New York