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PHS Wins Quadriplegic Prisoner’s Negligence Suit, Jail Settles for $100,000

PHS Wins Quadriplegic Prisoner’s Negligence Suit, Jail Settles for $100,000

On February 14, 2008, a Florida jury found that Prison Health Services (PHS) was not negligent in misdiagnosing a jail prisoner’s broken neck, which left him a permanent quadriplegic. The series of events that led to this tragic result for Gerrese Daniels, 23, started over a brownie.

On June 5, 2003, Daniels was to be transported from the Sarasota County Jail to a state prison reception center in Orlando. As he was preparing to leave, Daniels had a discussion with guard Matthew L. O’kon about whether or not he could take a brownie with him. That discussion became a dispute which resulted in O’kon slamming Daniels headfirst into a wall.

After sustaining the blow, Daniels had difficulty standing up. Thinking he was faking an injury to avoid going to state prison, jail guards dragged him to be examined by PHS nurse Sabrina Casker. The examination consisted of pricking Daniels’ foot to determine neurological function. When it responded, Casker concluded he was faking.

A neck collar was placed on Daniels and he was dragged to the van that was transporting him. He remained slumped over for the two-hour ride. When he arrived at the Central Florida Reception Center, prison officials thought something was wrong. They immediately had Daniels transferred to a hospital by helicopter. [See: PLN, Nov. 2006, p.1].

The hospital determined that Daniels had a neck fracture. While the initial blow from being slammed into the wall broke his neck, it had not affected his spinal cord; with prompt attention, he likely would have had a full recovery. Instead he was rendered a quadriplegic. Casker’s defense was that Daniels was neurologically sound and guards had not fully described the events or told her Daniels had received a traumatic blow.

The jury ruled for Casker and PHS based on a medical negligence standard. The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office had previously settled Daniels’ claim for the statutory maximum of $100,000. O’kon was later charged with battery in state court, but was acquitted at trial. See: Daniels v. Prison Health Services, U.S.D.C. (M.D. Fla.), Case No. 8:05-cv-01392-JSM-TBM.

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Related legal case

Daniels v. Prison Health Services