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Oklahoma Prisoner Awarded $65,000 for Inadequate MSRA Care

On March 12, 2009, Chief U.S. District Judge Claire Eagan entered judgment in the amount of $65,000 against an Oklahoma state prison Health Services Administrator (HSA) accused of failing to provide a prisoner adequate medical treatment.

While incarcerated at the Northeast Oklahoma Correctional Center (NOCC), Richard Potts contracted Methillicin Resistant Staphylcocus Aureus (MRSA), a deadly skin infection frequently found in prisons.

For three weeks, Potts tried to get medical attention for his condition. However, medical staff at NOCC rebuffed him, accusing Potts of faking his illness in order to get out of work. One medical staff member went as far as to say that Potts was “trying to win an Oscar.”

Potts’s condition deteriorated. He lost the ability to walk under his own power, and severe pain rendered him bedridden for days. Because of Potts’s severe pain and inability to walk, other prisoners and staff brought Potts his food and medication. However, once medical staff were made aware of this accommodation, staff were ordered not to bring food or medicine to Potts because according to medical staff, Potts was “faking.” Potts lost approximately 30 pounds because of this.

After three weeks of suffering, Potts was finally taken to the hospital. Potts was told by a physician there that he “was a very sick man,” and that emergency surgery was required. Extensive epidermal abscesses were removed from Potts’s shoulder and the base of his spine. Potts lost so much blood during surgery that a blood transfusion was required.

Potts returned from the hospital to NOCC and continued to receive inadequate medical care. Medications that were ordered by physicians at the hospital, for instance, were not provided by NOCC staff until four days later. Additionally, Potts was ordered to return to his job at the prison farm even though he was physically incapable of performing it.

Potts sued HSA Tom Gibson and three other medical staff in federal court alleging violations of the Eighth Amendment. The court entered judgment against Gibson for $65,000 upon stipulation of the parties and awarded $1,000 in attorneys’ fees. Potts was represented by Ryan Ray of Norman, Wohlgemuth, Chandler, and Dowdel, a Tulsa firm. See: Potts v. Gibson, No. 06-CV-0188-CVE-PJC (N.D. Okl. 2009). The judgment is available on PLN’s website.

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Related legal case

Potts v. Gibson