Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

$325,002 Award to Michigan Prisoner Denied Medical Care for Joint Pain

A federal jury has awarded $325,002 to a prisoner upon finding Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC) staff were deliberately indifferent to his chronic joint pain.

State prisoner Temujin Kensu, 52, suffered for over two decades with medical issues that included serious shoulder, back, knee, elbow and intestinal problems that caused him severe pain and suffering. Those problems were diagnosed and documented with treatment recommended, but prison officials failed to take action.

MDOC policy allows prisoners to receive medical care if they foot the bill, but prison staff refused and even canceled treatment and tests that Kensu had offered to pay for.

An example of MDOC’s deliberate indifference was shown, for example, by a doctor’s determination after examining an MRI and other diagnostic tests that Kensu required shoulder surgery, which was canceled by the prison system.

“They’ve essentially been torturing Kensu for 12 years,” said his attorney, Solomon Radner. “He can’t lift his hand higher than his shoulder.... I asked him, ‘what do you want?’ He said one word: ‘care.’”

MDOC officials and the state’s attorney described Kensu as “arrogant” and “demanding” before trial. “He claims that every doctor and nurse that he has seen in prison is incompetent, and that he knows more about medicine than they ever dreamed,” said Assistant Attorney General James Farrell.

However, the jury apparently agreed that prison doctors and nurses were deliberately indifferent to Kensu’s serious medical needs, awarding him $40,000 in compensatory damages against three defendants following a trial in March 2016. Indicating that it found extraordinary misconduct, the jurors also awarded $285,000 in punitive damages against the same defendants, plus $1.00 in nominal damages each against two other defendants.

The MDOC has since appealed the verdict. On November 1, 2016 the district court awarded attorney fees of $54,422.39 plus $2,213.44 in costs. The court further noted that 1997e(d)(2) requires up to 25% of the judgment to be applied to the attorney fee award. However, “Where a jury awards punitive damages, courts have found $1 to be an appropriate amount of the judgment to apply to attorney fees,” thus the court assessed 1% of the judgment ($3,250.02) towards the fee award. See: Kensu v. Buskirk, U.S.D.C. (E.D. Mich.), Case No. 2:13-cv-10279-VAR-DRG; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 151329.

Additional sources:,

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

Kensu v. Buskirk