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$15,000 Award for New York Prisoner in Medical Negligence Case

A New York Court of Claims awarded $15,000 to a prisoner after a nurse failed to timely diagnose and treat his heart attack.

While running to first base during a softball game on May 25, 2011, Shawangunk Correctional Facility (SCF) prisoner Juan Serrano, 53, experienced shortness of breath, felt disoriented, saw particles of light and felt pressure coming from the center of his chest across his left shoulder and extending down his left arm.

He sat down in the grass and told the recreation guard that he did not feel well. At around 3:40 p.m., he informed his block guard that he needed medical attention. The guard made two phone calls but Serrano was not taken to the medical unit for emergency sick call until five hours later.

Nurse Mary Ann Rutty was on duty; she took Serrano’s vital signs and noted elevated blood pressure. According to Serrano, Rutty said he was “a little dehydrated,” gave him non-aspirin pain medication and sent him back to his cell. At around 12:30 p.m. the next day, Serrano returned to sick call. He received an electrocardiogram, which resulted in the doctor calling an ambulance and giving Serrano aspirin. He also received nitroglycerin on the way to the hospital, where he underwent a cardiac catheterization.

Serrano had suffered a heart attack. At the trial on his medical negligence claim, both his expert and the state’s expert agreed with that diagnosis. The evidence led the court to find Serrano’s “cardiac event most likely occurred at some point between 9:00 pm on May 25, 2011 and 2:00 am on May 26, 2011.” Thus, administering aspirin and/or nitroglycerin at the first sick call would have covered Nurse Rutty’s duty of care. Both experts testified that Serrano exhibited heart attack symptoms that required “more testing.”

On February 27, 2017, the Court of Claims found Rutty 100% liable for the pain and discomfort Serrano experienced when she “departed from accepted medical practice in failing to refer claimant to a physician or perform an EKG when he presented with chest and shoulder pain....” The court awarded $15,000 for his suffering. Since Serrano did not experience permanent damage to his heart from the incident, his request for damages for future pain and suffering was denied. See: Serrano v. New York, Court of Claims (NY), UID No. 2017-032-001, Claim No. 122759.

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Related legal case

Serrano v. New York