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$450,000 Award in New York Prisoner’s Negligence Claim

A New York Court of Claims has awarded $450,000 for injuries incurred as a result of a prison doctor negligently injecting a corticosteroid directly into a prisoner’s Achilles tendon.

Prior to his incarceration in 1988, New York state prisoner Kent Kruemer was a serious and experienced runner hoping to qualify for the Olympics in the marathon event. Kruemer continued to train despite his imprisonment, both to stay ready for competition upon his release and as a way of coping with stress.

While at Groveland Correctional Facility in early 2001, Kruemer began to experience pain in his right Achilles tendon. He was diagnosed as having tendonitis or bursitis.
Prison officials granted a request for Kruemer’s own private physician to treat him. That doctor, under the supervision of prison physician Dr. Dar, injected Kruemer’s bursa – a small fluid-filled cushion that protects joints – with a corticosteroid called Kenalog 40.

Shortly thereafter, Kruemer began to experience pain in his left Achilles tendon. This time Dr. Dar injected Kruemer, but he injected the medication directly into the tendon. Kruemer yelled out immediately, as he knew it should not be injected into the tendon. Six weeks later, on August 24, 2001, Kruemer’s left Achilles tendon tore as he reached for something in his cell.

At trial in Kruemer’s subsequent negligence lawsuit, it was agreed by both parties “that it was improper for Dr. Dar to inject Kenalog 40 directly into [Kruemer’s] left Achilles tendon.” However, Dr. Dar contended that Kruemer did not suffer a tear but rather continued to suffer from tendonitis and bursitis. Expert testimony was admitted to support the position of both parties.

The court accepted the testimony of Dr. Louis D. Nunez as being the most persuasive. Dr. Nunez testified that injecting Kenalog 40 directly into the tendon increased the risk of a tear or complete rupture. Contrary to the defense’s expert, Dr. Nunez said such a tear would not cause a fraying of the tendon fibers, but that the corticosteroid would act as an acid in the fibers, causing them to break down across a level plane, and thus “there would be a smoother filing in of scar tissue.”

The court found “that the injection of Kenalog 40 directly into [Kruemer’s] tendon was a deviation from the appropriate standard of medical care and that this injection proximately caused the partial tear.” Dr. Dar was found 100% liable.

The court noted that before his injury, Kruemer set numerous New York state prison race records and the national prison record in the marathon. The injury prevented him from running anything except short distances due to pain. On March 3, 2010, the court awarded Kruemer, who had since been released, $250,000 for past pain and suffering and $200,000 for future pain and suffering. See: Kruemer v. New York, New York Court of Claims (Rochester), UID #2010-031-506, Claim No. 105498.

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Related legal case

Kruemer v. New York