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Federal Prisoner Receives $20,000 for Inadequate Medical Treatment for His Hand Injury

On March 7, 2000, the United States agreed to pay a federal prisoner the sum of $20,000 to settle his lawsuit stemming from inadequate medical care resulting in permanent paralysis in his left hand. The lawsuit had sought $1 million in damages. Documents relating to this case were released to PLN after a longstanding Freedom of Information Act request was just recently fulfilled by the government.

In August 1994, Jibri Rahman was a prisoner at the Federal Detention Center in Atlanta awaiting transfer to another prison when he injured the fourth and fifth fingers on his left hand while exercising. Four months later, after Rahman was transferred to the prison in Talladega, Alabama, he was finally seen by an orthopedic surgeon. Six months after that, Rahman was sent for surgery on his hand to repair torn ligaments. Pins were placed in the hand, and the hand was put in a cast. A follow-up appointment was made for four weeks out to have the suture and stitches removed and to evaluate the surgery.

Rahman was not taken to that appointment, and eight weeks after the surgery he went to the prison infirmary complaining of sharp pain in his hand. It was discovered that the pins were pushing through the skin. Rahman was not taken back to the outside doctor until another four weeks had passed. At that time the doctor found that the pins now could not be removed because not only was healing not complete, but removing the pins would break the pins themselves. Rahman's hand was splinted and the doctor made another appointment to see Rahman in one month.

However, the prison then went on lockdown and Rahman missed that appointment, too. Two months later, Rahman was returned to see the doctor, at which point his fingers were paralyzed into a locked extended position, and one of the pins could only be removed through surgery. He was diagnosed with a degenerative bone disease, arthritis, and partial paralysis.            

When Rahman was supposed to be taken to have the pin removal surgery, prison staff mistakenly took the wrong prisoner instead. The pins remained in Rahman's hand for another 10 weeks.

Ultimately, Rahman's fingers were visibly deformed, arthritic, and immobile. A third surgery was needed to gain any mobility, but it was assessed that such surgery would be useless without immediate and extensive physical therapy. Rahman essentially lost the use of his fourth and fifth fingers of his left hand, which remain paralyzed in an extended position, and which cause his extreme pain.

According to his lawsuit, Rahman accused BOP medical staff of "carelessness, negligence and reckless indifference to Plaintiff's medical needs," and that "Plaintiff suffered pain, mental anguish, bodily injury, permanent disability, disfigurement, and will continue in the future to suffer pain … lost wages and medical and hospital expenses" as a result.

The complaint was filed on June 29, 1998, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. Less than two years later, the case settled for $20,000, which was inclusive of all costs and attorney's fees. Rahman was represented by attorney Susan G. James of Talladega. See: Rahman v. United States of America, Case No. CV-98-N-1671-E (U.S.D.C. N.D. AL).

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Related legal case

Rahman v. United States of America