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New York State Prisoner Wins Medical Malpractice Suit, Awarded $30,000

by Ed Lyon

On April 15, 2019, a New York Court of Claims awarded prisoner Dain Morawski a total of $30,000 for pain and suffering caused by an overdose of incorrectly filled prescription medication. The judgment followed a four-day bench trial in which the defendants and medical experts presented testimony.

Morawski was born with cystic fibrosis (CF). One of the many problems associated with CF is difficulty absorbing nutrients in the digestive tract. To aide his digestive system in functioning properly, Morawski was required to eat two daily snacks to supplement a three-meal dietary regimen, and to take the medication Creon in dosages of six pills per meal and three with each snack, amounting to 24 pills daily.

Morawski lived with his mother until he entered the prison system at age 21. He arrived at the Franklin Correctional Facility on November 19, 2013, and his medical records from his prior prison unit indicated he was taking the medication Colace to relieve constipation – another CF-related condition – as well as Creon.

When he received his medication on November 21, the pill pack labeled Creon did not match the appearance of the drug he was used to seeing. He spoke with nurse Tammy Hyde about this at the infirmary. Hyde told Morawski that she called the pharmacy and was told the drug was a generic form of Creon, so he began taking it as directed.

The drug was actually Delzicol, which is used to treat ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, with a maximum dosage of six pills daily. By the next day Morawski had overdosed to the point that he was suffering from nausea, burning stomach pain and bloody stools, and was vomiting blood. Hyde again told him the Delzicol was generic Creon.

Morawski called his mother and gave her a description of the pills he was taking. She called a pharmacy and was informed those pills were actually Delzicol and not genetic Creon. Later that evening, when his mother relayed that information during a phone call, Morawski immediately stopped taking the Delzicol. He had taken 50 of the pills by then, and went to late sick call that night.

Nurse Dawn Ball took the remaining Delzicol from him and made a note to investigate the situation on Monday morning. No calls were made to a poison control center regarding the overdose, no physician was called for a consultation and while TeleMed was available, it was not used by prison staff.

At trial, the pharmacist admitted to making a mistake and the attending nurses testified truthfully. The court based its decision and $30,000 award on finding that the pharmacist was negligent and the nurses had deviated from the accepted standard of medical care. See: Morawski v. State of New York, New York State Court of Claims, UID No. 2019-032-502, Claim No. 123752. 

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Related legal case

Morawski v. State of New York