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Failure of CMS Nurses and Doctor to Properly Treat Broken Leg Overcomes Summary Judgment

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the grant of summary judgment to a doctor and two nurses employed by Correctional Medical Services (CMS). The lawsuit claimed an Eighth Amendment violation related to the treatment of a prisoner who broke his leg just above the ankle during a softball game.

While sliding into second base on August 9, 2002, Missouri prisoner Bryan Croft fractured his leg. CMS nurses Wanda Patton and Pam Tanner later admitted that Croft had an obvious fracture, as his foot was “not at the right angle” and he was in obvious pain.
Croft’s claim was based on the failure of the nurses to stabilize his leg before moving him.
Instead, they tried to move him onto a backboard by holding him by the shoulders and knees. When they did so, his “foot completely spun over backwards and hit the dirt.” They then loaded him on a golf cart and took him to the infirmary.

The Eighth Circuit found the “record showed the nurses’ acts conflicted with the emergency nursing protocol for fractures, and it is commonly known that an obviously fractured limb requires immobilization and stabilization, particularly before a person is moved and that failure to splint or otherwise immobilize a fractured limb puts the person at risk for further injury and increased pain.” As such, there was sufficient evidence for a jury to decide whether Patton and Tanner were deliberately indifferent to Croft’s serious medical needs.

The appellate court further held there was a trial-worthy issue as to whether Dr. Robert Hampton exercised independent medical judgment or if his decision to delay an examination of Croft’s injury by an orthopedist for 72 hours was a decision that fell so far below the reasonable standard of care as to amount to deliberate indifference.

The Eight Circuit’s finding was based on Dr. Hampton’s failure to follow the recommendation of an emergency room doctor without examining Croft himself. Because Croft was diagnosed with “an unstable comminuted fracture,” he required care within twenty-four hours to avoid neurovascular compromise. It was contested whether the failure to provide treatment and the required surgery within that time period placed him at substantial risk.

The Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to Patton, Tanner and Hampton, but upheld summary judgment in favor of CMS because none of the company’s policies were at issue. See: Croft v. Hampton, 286 Fed.Appx. 955 (8th Cir. 2008) (unpublished).

The district court ordered the parties to engage in mediation following remand, and the case settled in July 2009 under undisclosed terms. Croft represented himself pro se in this litigation. See: Croft v. Hampton, U.S.D.C. (E.D. Mo.), Case No. 2:04-cv-00051-ERW.

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Croft v. Hampton

Croft v. Hampton