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Oregon: Medical Neglect of Diabetic Detainee Nets $260,000 Settlement

Oregon: Medical Neglect of Diabetic Detainee Nets $260,000 Settlement

by Mark Wilson

A former Oregon jail detainee received $260,000 to settle his lawsuit alleging inadequate medical care.

Since 2008, Franklin Millner has suffered from “Charcot foot” – a softening of the foot bones due to nerve damage from diabetes. The condition causes bone fractures, deformity and disability, and amputation is often required.

Dr. Woll, an orthopedist who treated Millner’s condition and diabetic foot ulcers, fitted him with orthotic shoes that eased the pressure on his feet.

On December 22, 2011, Millner was arrested and confined in the Multnomah County Jail. He told jail staff that he suffered from Charcot foot, had a history of ulcerations and needed his orthotic shoes. He was ignored.

Almost two weeks later, Nurse Claudia Carlsen recognized that Millner was at “very high risk of new ulcerations without his custom diabetic shoes.” She ordered that he be allowed to wear them, but jail staff disregarded her order.

Millner’s right foot began to swell and on January 26, 2012, Carlsen again noted “risk for infection without orthotic.” She again ordered staff to “obtain orthotic shoes from property.” Again they did not comply, and Millner’s condition got progressively worse.

A week later, Nurse Carlsen noted Millner’s increased swelling and foot infections. She referred him to a podiatrist rather than Dr. Woll or another orthopedist. Even so, Millner was not seen by a podiatrist for over a month because the county had not paid the doctor’s outstanding bill.

Throughout February 2012, Millner’s condition worsened and he repeatedly requested, but was denied, his orthotic shoes. Staff finally gave him the shoes – without shoelaces – in early March 2012. By then, however, his right foot was too swollen to wear them.

On March 6, 2012, a podiatrist finally evaluated Millner and agreed that he needed to wear his orthotic shoes. Since the jail prohibited shoestrings, Dr. Woll suggested retrofitting the shoes with Velcro straps.

Instead, a nurse “came up with the not-so-brilliant idea of using duct tape to secure his shoes,” according to Millner’s attorney. “It is not clear why duct tape is allowed in the jail, yet not shoestrings.” Nevertheless, this plan “did not work.”

Millner was not given his shoes with Velcro straps until March 21, 2012. He could not wear them, however, because his foot was still significantly swollen.

Later that month, a jail doctor noted a diabetic ulcer on the bottom of Millner’s right foot which was bleeding, oozing and extremely painful. He dismissed Millner’s “concerns regarding the breakdown of the Charcot foot and ulcer.” On April 4, 2012, a “foul odor” emanating from Millner’s foot was treated with antibiotics.

Five days later, the podiatrist found that the ulcer had grown much larger and deeper. He ordered that Millner use a wheelchair for three weeks, but jail staff forced him to walk to an April 16, 2012 court appearance.

Once Millner’s charges were resolved, he was sent to the Douglas County Jail on May 3, 2012 for transport to California on an outstanding warrant. Multnomah County did not “provide a wheelchair for the transport, requiring Mr. Millner to walk on his infected, oozing, painful foot.”

When California officials refused to transport Millner, Douglas County officials released him. He was forced to purchase a bus ticket for the three-hour trip back to Portland.

Upon his return, Millner saw Dr. Woll for severe sepsis and osteomyelitis (a bone infection) of his right foot, caused by the jail’s denial of his orthotic shoes. Woll recommended amputation but Millner elected to try to save his foot. After months of surgeries, numerous trips to a hyperbaric chamber and other significant treatment, his foot finally healed.

In September 2013, Millner filed a federal lawsuit against Multnomah County and jail officials, seeking damages for his medical costs and pain and suffering, as well as punitive damages, attorney’s fees and litigation expenses.

Multnomah County Commissioners unanimously agreed on January 9, 2014 to pay Millner $260,000 to settle his suit; basically, the county paid over a quarter-million dollars in taxpayer funds because jail staff refused to give Millner his medically-required shoes in a timely manner. He was represented by Portland attorney Lynn S. Walsh. See: Millner v. Multnomah County, U.S.D.C. (D. Or.), Case No. 3:13-cv-01689-MO.

Additional source: The Oregonian


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Related legal case

Millner v. Multnomah County