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$226,000 Workers’ Comp Settlement for Pennsylvania Guard Scarred by MRSA

A Pennsylvania prison guard who contracted a staph infection that caused facial scarring has settled a workers’ compensation claim for $226,000.

While employed at the Graterford Prison in 2003, guard Carol Snyder contracted an infection. She awoke on the morning of December 30, 2003 with facial swelling and went to see her primary health care provider. She was referred to another doctor, who drained the swelling in her face.

Her attorney, Gerald K. Schrom, said Snyder experienced “probably 40 infections” over the next few years, which re-sulted in “40 separate outbreaks” on her skin. She was diagnosed with MRSA by an open wound specialist on June 28, 2005.

That same doctor stated there was “no question in my mind that Ms. Snyder acquired this bacterial strain while work-ing at the prison.” Pennsylvania prison officials, however, were reluctant to accept that conclusion despite the fact that MRSA is a well-known problem in correctional facilities. [See, e.g.: PLN, May 2008, p.12; Dec. 2007, p.1].

In fact, prison officials were in total denial, according to Schrom. They insisted that Snyder did not have MRSA, claiming her facial scarring was due to acne. “And then they were saying, ‘Okay, you have MRSA, but you can work,’” said Schrom.

“She’s brave and she took a stand against the State of Pennsylvania that took the position, at least initially, that she doesn’t have MRSA and if she does she didn’t get it at the prison and if she did get it, she could go back to the prison and work tomorrow,” Schrom stated. “They fought her all along the way.”

The facial scarring suffered by Snyder was so bad that it requires reconstructive surgery estimated to cost $100,000. The experience left her afraid to go out in public, as people were repulsed by her appearance.

“When we were going to our very first hearing ... the defense counsel stepped back and he wouldn’t even touch her with his gloves,” said Schrom. “So she walks around often with gloves and goes out at night. She’s had a complete change of lifestyle.”

While Snyder tried to put her life back together, prison officials still refused to admit to a MRSA problem. Jennifer Daneker, a public information officer for Graterford Prison, insisted the facility was clean and “all of the institutions in Penn-sylvania are accredited by the ACA.” Which, of course, has little to do with whether there are MRSA outbreaks at state prisons.

Snyder’s workers’ compensation claim settled for $226,000 on December 8, 2008. See: Penn. Dept. of Labor & Indus-try, Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, Claim No. 3100315 (Bureau No. 219295).

PLN has previously reported on rampant MRSA infections in prisons and jails nationwide, and specifically on MRSA problems in Pennsylvania county prisons. [See: PLN, Feb. 2009, p.48; July 2005, p.20].


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Related legal case

Penn. Dept. of Labor & Industry, Bureau of Workers’ Compensation