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$100,000 Award to Pennsylvania Prisoner Denied Dental Care

A Pennsylvania federal jury awarded $100,000 to a prisoner who was denied treatment for a “rotten molar” while at the Washington County Correctional Facility (WCCF).

Upon his February 6, 2009 intake at WCCF, Joseph Consonery informed a nurse that he had an infected tooth and required care from a dentist. Days later, the tooth “snapped,” causing severe pain and ongoing bleeding.

Despite repeated verbal and written requests for medical care, none was provided until March 23. Then, a physician’s assistant observed swelling in the jaw and a “rotten molar.” The swelling was determined to be from an infection, and Consonery was prescribed an antibiotic.

He saw WCCF’s dentist on March 31; he confirmed a decayed molar and recommended an outside oral surgeon should evaluate it. Prison officials concluded the matter was not a medical crisis and care could only be provided if Consonery obtained a furlough. Consonery was unsuccessful in obtaining the furlough or an outside dental appointment.

To alleviate his pain, Consonery stuffed wads of toilet paper into his mouth to prevent air from hitting the infected wisdom tooth. He was unable to eat and lost 35 pounds over a four month period. He did not receive treatment until transferred to a Pennsylvania state prison on June 5, which resulted in immediate extraction of the infected tooth.

The jury found Captain Michael King, Officer Chris Cain, Deputy Warden John Teamus, and Nurse Esther Delsandro were deliberately indifferent to a serious medical need and they acted maliciously or wantonly in denying medical care. It awarded Consonery $100,000 in compensatory damages.

Consonery was represented by attorney Lawrence H. Fisher from Pittsburgh. See: Consonery v. Pelzer, U.S.D.C., W.D. Pennsylvania, Case No 2:09-CV-01510.

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Related legal case

Consonery v. Pelzer