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$5 Million Jury Award Against Doctor in Death of Michigan Prisoner

A federal jury awarded $5,000,000 to the estate of a deceased state prisoner who died after a prison psychiatrist prescribed him psychotropic medication without conducting a proper evaluation.

Ozy Vaughn was a Michigan state prisoner who suffered from chronic schizophrenia. In January 2002, he was incarcerated in the residential treatment program at Riverside Correctional Facility. On Friday, January 25, 2002, psychiatrist David Moskowitz, M.D., an independent contractor for psychiatric care, prescribed him psychotropic medications to control his schizophrenia.

Vaughn was moved to an observation cell where he began sweating profusely and vomiting throughout the weekend. Around noon on Monday, a nurse finally reported the vomiting. Vaughn was diagnosed with heat exhaustion and adverse reaction to the medication; he was moved to another cell, where he died of dehydration and gastroenteritis the next morning.

Vaughn?s estate filed suit alleging Moskowitz had failed to examine Vaughn before prescribing the medications and had relied on untrained staff to make diagnoses and prescribe medicines. He also allegedly failed to examine Vaughn on Monday after having been informed of his condition, instead relying on social workers and guards to handle the medical problem.

On June 14, 2006, after more than a day?s deliberation, a federal jury found in favor of Vaughn?s estate and awarded $2 million for conscious pain and suffering and $3 million in punitive damages. The estate was represented by Southfield attorney Robert M. Giroux, Jr., who said the estate had already settled with the other defendants ? including nurses, guards and a social worker (that settlement, in the amount of $600,000 including attorney fees, was approved in December 2005 when Vaughn?s estate was represented by the law firm of Fieger, Fieger, Kenney & Johnson, P.C).

On September 22, 2006, judgment was entered by the Court in the amount of $1.5 million for past non-economic damages ($2 million less a setoff), $3 million in punitive damages and $752,748.46 in interest through Aug. 1, 2006, for a total of $5.25 million.

Moskowitz has appealed the jury verdict to the Sixth Circuit; Vaughn?s estate cross-appealed on the judgment order and various pre-trial orders. On February 15, 2007, the Court awarded attorney fees to Mr. Giroux in the amount of $45,420.00 plus $29,682.85 in costs. See: Gibson v. Moskowitz, USDC WD MI (Southern Division), Case No. 1:2003cv00053.

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