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$290,000 Judgment for Failure to Treat Ruptured Appendix Affirmed

$290,000 Judgment for Failure to Treat Ruptured Appendix Affirmed

by David Reutter

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a $290,000 judgment in a civil rights action alleging deliberate indifference to a prisoner’s serious medical needs. The appellate court’s order affirmed a Louisiana federal district court judgment concerning a prisoner’s treatment at the Morehouse Detention Center.

Prisoner Calvin Rodrigue submitted a written request for emergency services on May 31, 2008. Nurse Dana Grayson treated his complaint of abdominal pain and vomiting with medication. Rodrigue submitted a sick call request the next day that made similar complaints. Once again, Grayson administered medication.

In response to a sick call request filed by Rodrigue on June 3, Grayson gave him milk of magnesia to treat his complaint of constipation. Two days later he submitted another request for medical services to Lt. Brad Fife; he also submitted a sick call request to Grayson. Both requests said his complaints and symptoms were persistent, and he believed an enema was the proper treatment. Thirty minutes after Grayson gave Rodrigue an enema on June 6, he had a bowel movement.

Rodrigue submitted an emergency medical services request on June 10, 2008, and Grayson authorized his transport to a hospital. Once there, Rodrigue was diagnosed with a ruptured or perforated appendix, which was removed the same day. He underwent two more surgeries because sepsis had set in; he was not released from the hospital until August 6.

Rodrigue filed a civil rights action that went to a bench trial on Eighth Amendment claims against Grayson and Fife. The district court held that “despite persistent complaints of extreme abdominal pain and bilious vomiting for over a week, [Rodrigue] was simply denied access to a medical professional competent to diagnose and treat his condition.” It found Grayson’s “conduct rose to the level of a wanton disregard for Rodrigue’s serious medical needs.” As to Fife, the court wrote he “exhibited deliberate indifference to Rodrigue’s medical condition when he ignored Rodrigue’s inmate request of June 5, 2008.”

The court denied qualified immunity and found Grayson and Fife jointly and severally liable to Rodrigue in the amount of $280,000 in compensatory damages plus $10,000 in costs and interest. They appealed.

The Fifth Circuit held there was no clear error by the district court, including its finding that Grayson and Fife lacked credibility. It also found the right complained of was clearly established, and with the finding of a constitutional violation the defendants were not entitled to qualified immunity. The judgment was affirmed. See: Rodrigue v. Grayson, 557 Fed.Appx. 341 (5th Cir. 2014).

Following remand, the district court held on June 23, 2014 that Rodrigue’s motion for attorney fees was untimely, as it was filed more than 14 days after the judgment became final; thus, the motion was denied. The court also denied a request for prejudgment interest on the damages award, again due to untimeliness – such a motion is “effectively a motion to amend the judgment under Rule 59, and ... must be brought within twenty-eight days of the judgment.” See:Rodrigue v. Morehouse Det. Ctr., 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 86707.


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Related legal cases

Rodrigue v. Grayson

Rodrigue v. Morehouse Det. Ctr.