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$325,000 Settlement in Michigan Jail Prisoner’s Ruptured Appendix Lawsuit

Michigan’s Lenawee County Jail (LCJ) paid $325,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a former prisoner who was denied medical care before and after his appendix ruptured. This is the second such settlement within a month. (See accompanying article.)

As was reported in our previous coverage of a settlement in which a prisoner died due to being denied life essential medications, LCJ had a policy of not only providing inadequate medical care to prisoners, but of having its untrained guards make medical decisions.

The effects of those policies will have lifelong implications for Aaron Borck, who was sentenced to 90 days in LCJ for a probation violation of missing an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Borck’s medical problems came on quickly around lunchtime as he was working as a kitchen trustee on March 13, 2007.

Feeling so bad, he retired to his bunk, unable to work, eat lunch or dinner or sleep. For the next two days, Borck continued in this state, vomiting any time he attempted to eat. Whenever guards came by to count of pass out meals, Borck requested to see a doctor or nurse. He was told none were at the jail. His requests to go to the hospital were met with the comment that “he’d have to be dying.”

Nurse Bonie Mason came to LCJ on March 16. He described “a sharp, radiating abdominal pain and back pain, presented with a distended abdomen, fever, and decreased bowel sounds.” He also told Mason that he had no appetite, no bowel movement and had been vomiting.

Mason told Borck that he did not have an appendix issue; he was just “jam-packed” and that an enema would solve the problem. The diagnosis of constipation resulted from Mason failing to advise Dr. Stickney, the doctor over the jail, of the totality of Borck’s symptoms.

After Borck self-administered the “Fleet’s enema,” his symptoms and pain worsened. The enema, as its label warned, should not have been used with appendicitis symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting being present. An enema can cause an appendix to rupture.

It was not until March 18 that Borck was referred to see Dr. Stickney. That referral did not occur until after Sgt. Mary Neill saw that her own medical “diagnosis” of flu and “treatment” of “drink fluids, eat soft foods, and walk around” failed to alleviate his condition.

When Borck finally saw Dr. Stickney on March 19, he was promptly sent to the hospital to receive emergency surgery. It is unknown when his appendix ruptured, but the result was so infectious that a portion of his colon and bowels had to be removed. The scar from the surgery is about 8 inches long.

LCJ was so intent on avoiding medical costs that on the day Borck went to the hospital it gave him a “technical release.” Yet, it sent him a bill for “Inmate Housing” through March 26. Borck also was stuck with the medical bills.

The ironic part of the whole sordid situation at LCJ is that its current health care contact carries an annual cost of around $400,000. So far, it has paid out $570,000 in settlements with more lawsuits to follow for incidents that occurred within months of each other.

Borck was ably represented by Southfield attorney David A. Robinson. See: Borck v. County of Lenawee, USDC, E.D. Michigan, Case No. 07-cv-15124.

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Related legal case

Borck v. County of Lenawee

Please see the brief bank for documents related to this case.