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Sixth Circuit Reverses Dismissal of Tennessee Prisoner’s Medical Claim

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court's dismissal for failure to state a claim, in a Tennessee prisoner's inadequate medical care suit.

On June 26, 2004, Shelby County, Tennessee, detainee Robert Lee Barnett became ill when Nurse Terrie inadvertently administered another prisoner's Dilantin, an anti-seizure medication, rather than his prescribed ibuprofen.

Guard Hicks sent Barnett to the infirmary without an escort. On the way there, Barnett became dizzy, fell down an escalator and sustained a head injury. He was not treated for the head wound.

On September 16, 2004, Barnett brought federal suit, but the district court dismissed the action for non-exhaustion on February 17, 2006. The Sixth Circuit reversed, See Barnett v. Luttrell, No. 06-5438 (6th Cir. 2007), but on remand, the district court again dismissed on initial screening, for failure to state a claim.

The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of Barnett's claims related to being given Dilantin because "Barnett alleges no facts suggesting that Terrie's incorrect administration of Dilantin was anything other than negligent." However, the court reversed "Barnett's claim that Terrie abandoned him after his fall without providing him with any treatment." The court also found that dismissal of his claim against Medical Director Tony Cooper was improper because "Barnett's allegation that Cooper took no action to treat Barnett's fall-caused head injury adequately states a claim for relief." The court affirmed the dismissal of Barnett's claims against Shelby County and Correctional Medical Services (CMS) for failure to train and supervise employees, because he failed to identify any "deliberate action" or "a particular municipal policy or custom of deliberate indifference." See: Barnett v. Luttrell, Case No. 08-6432 (6th Cir. 2011).

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Related legal case

Barnett v. Luttrell