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CMS Found Liable for Inadequate Hep C Medical Care of Delaware Prisoner

The federal district court in Delaware has held that Correctional Medical Services (CMS), the medical provider for the Delaware Department of Corrections (DDOC), was deliberately indifferent to a prisoner’s medical needs. The ruling should come as no surprise to PLN readers, as PLN has previously featured the “obviously inadequate” medical care provided to DDOC prisoners by CMS. [See: PLN, Dec. 2005, p.1]

This civil rights action was initiated and prosecuted pro se by DDOC prisoner Richard Turner, who alleged that inadequate medical care at the Delaware Correctional Center violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The district court had previously dismissed claims against CMS doctors due to Turner’s failure to serve them. Before the court were summary judgment motions filed by both Turner and the remaining defendants.

The court granted the state defendants’ motion, allowing only the claims against CMS to proceed. At issue were medical services rendered by CMS from July 1, 2000 until June 30, 2002. The court further limited that time period by granting CMS summary judgment, in part, to provide for a two-year statute of limitations. Since Turner’s lawsuit was not filed until October 1, 2002, he could only pursue claims arising after October 1, 2000.

The heart of Turner’s claim centered on Interferon injections he received three times each week for a seven-month period to treat his Hepatitis C. Turner started Interferon treatment on December 17, 2001.

According to Turner, the treatment began when “one morning out of the blue a nurse came in at 4:00 a.m., gave me a syringe with Interferon and said your Interferon/Ribivirin treatment starts today and handed me the syringe. I asked do I have to inject the vein and was told no, that could kill me, but to lift up some skin and inject under the skin.” Turner went on to state that “three days a week for seven months nurses watched me inject the same area and never told me you do not inject the same area over and over with chemotherapy.”

Turner provided the court with Interferon product information. As to administration, it said “a patient should self-inject … only if the physician determines that it is appropriate and the patient agrees to medical follow-up as necessary and training in proper injection techniques has been given to him.” The information sheet further stated that Interferon should not be injected in the same place all the time, but the injection site should be changed in a regular pattern.

The court found that Turner asked a most relevant question: “why in over 6 months of 3 shots per week did not one CMS employee stop me from injecting the same spot?” The court held it was “evident from the continual failure to oversee the administration of Interferon therapy that CMS healthcare policies either failed to address the immediate needs of inmates with the serious medical condition of Hepatitis C or that it simply turned a ‘blind eye to an obviously inadequate practice’ that was likely to result in the violation of constitutional rights.”

The district court granted judgment to Turner on the Interferon injection issue only. It ordered the parties to brief the issue of damages. Turner’s injuries consisted of contracting Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) at the injection site, “which went undiagnosed and cultured for over three years.” See: Turner v. Correctional Medical Services, 479 F.Supp.2d 453 (D. Del 2007).

On July 17, 2007 the court ruled on the defendants’ motion to alter or amend the judgment, holding that expert testimony regarding the need to train Turner to rotate the injection site was not required. The motion to alter or amend was therefore denied. See: Turner v. Correctional Medical Services, 494 F.Supp.2d 281 (D.Del., 2007).

The case subsequently settled for a confidential amount in December 2007; Turner was represented in the post-judgment stage of the litigation by Jeffrey Martin of the Wilmington firm of Martin & Wilson, PA.

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Related legal cases

Turner v. Correctional Medical Services

Turner v. Correctional Medical Services