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

$12,000 Paid to California Prisoner Denied Back Surgery Despite Doctor’s Recommendation

On August 25, 2022, a California prisoner told the federal court for the Eastern District of California that he had reached an agreement with the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to settle a suit he filed over denial of back surgery that he claimed left him in “excruciating pain.”

In 2016, while incarcerated at Kern Valley State Prison, Kevin Allen sought treatment for a lower back disorder of spinal stenosis and a pinched nerve in his leg. On October 28, 2016, Allen had a telemedicine appointment with an outside physician, Dr. Harold Segal, who recommended surgery. The following month Allen had another appointment with a prison nurse practitioner named Manasrah, who said he would make a recommendation for the surgery to the appropriate prison committee, known as UM/MAR.

Allen then took a trip to a hospital after his back condition caused him to fall in his cell. Upon his return, he learned that the recommended surgery had been denied by CDCR’s seven-member UM/MAR committee. Allen then filed suit pro se in the Court in June 2018 against all seven members of the committee.

In his complaint, Allen argued it was undisputed that he had a serious medical condition, and when members of the UM/MAR committee denied the recommendation of Dr. Segal – an outside specialist in back issues – they demonstrated deliberate indifference to his medical needs, resulting in “unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain” that violated his Eighth Amendment guarantee of freedom from cruel and unusual punishment.

Allen noted that deliberate indifference can be shown by intentionally denying or delaying access to medical care, or by interfering with treatment that has been prescribed, as laid out in Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976). Also citing Johnson v. Wright, 412 F.2d 406 (2d Cir. 2005), he added that when higher-level medical officials ignore the recommendations of a treating physician, that is “not a mere disagreement over medical treatment” but can constitute deliberate indifference.

The district court appointed counsel to represent Allen from the Los Angeles firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP. The parties then proceeded to reach their settlement agreement paying Plaintiff $12,000, which included fees and costs for his attorneys. Although Allen prevailed in his lawsuit, CDCR may well consider the settlement a bargain – even after four years of litigation – compared to the cost of the surgery he was denied. See: Allen v. Lopez, USDC (E.D. Cal.), Case No. 1:18-cv-00808.  

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

Allen v. Lopez