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$550,000 Settlement for Georgia Prisoner Who Lost Leg Due to Improper Care

A diabetic Georgia prisoner received $550,000 to settle a lawsuit claiming he lost one of his legs due to improper medical treatment and neglect by Dr. Chiquita Fye, the medical director at Macon State Prison (MSP).

Michael Tarver, 55, serving a life sentence without parole, was injured while getting trays in MSP’s kitchen in 2012. He slipped on water and fell, sustaining a dime-size cut above his left ankle. His status as a diabetic made Tarver particularly vulnerable to infection, and his cut was allowed to fester.

In a deposition, a former prison nurse said the wound became so rancid that its odor was noticeable outside Tarver’s infirmary room. Another nurse stated she told Dr. Fye that tissue inside the wound had turned black, but the doctor did not respond. Six former nurses testified that Fye’s disdain for prisoners caused her, at times, to withhold essential treatment from those she believed were faking or being manipulative.

Fye said she never saw black tissue in Tarver’s leg wound. She added that she gave him two prescriptions and at one point had him admitted to a local emergency room, which demonstrated adequate care. But in a deposition, Dr. John Macdonald, one of the nation’s foremost wound experts, criticized Fye’s treatment of Tarver and said that what happened to him would have “never happened in Haiti,” where Macdonald had established a clinic.

By November 2012, Tarver’s leg was so infected that amputation was required. He underwent two surgical procedures at the Atlanta Medical Center; the first removed his left leg at the calf. Post-surgery, it was learned the infection had spread and a second procedure removed his leg above the knee.

Tarver was fitted with a prosthesis, but regularly uses a wheelchair due to fluctuating weight issues affecting the prosthesis’ fit.

On June 9, 2014, Tarver filed a handwritten 26-page pro se civil rights complaint. During the discovery stage, he hired attorney Mike Brown to represent him. Brown obtained deposition testimony and developed evidence to show that part of Tarver’s medical records were missing, including an order for wound consultation that a former physician assistant testified she wrote when Fye wouldn’t provide one, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Tarver agreed in September 2017 to accept a $550,000 settlement, inclusive of attorneys’ fees and costs, to resolve the lawsuit. See: Tarver v. McLaughlin, U.S.D.C. (M.D. Ga.), Case No. 5:14-cv-00214-MTT-MSH.

Two weeks after the settlement, Dr. Fye announced that she was resigning. She is a defendant in another suit filed by a prisoner who suffered a seizure after his daily prescription for Xanax was abruptly canceled.

Asked to comment on the resignation, Brown said Tarver “felt like that was justice, and, as far as he’s concerned, the prison is better off without her as the doctor.” 

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Related legal case

Tarver v. McLaughlin