(July 28, 2011)
The 8th Circuit has ruled that a facility director showed indifference to an inmate’s medical needs, affirming a $1 million verdict. This inmate was a paraplegic, suffering from sever spasticity (tightness of muscles), edema, and was likely to develop pressure sores.
One month into his sentence, this man broke his femur and developed several sores, requiring surgery. His lawyer asked the judge to modify the sentence, stating that this facility was unable to meet his clients medical and physical needs. However, the judge denied the sentence modification when the facility director wrote the judge a letter stating that the facility could take care of this man.
A week later, this man was hospitalized yet again when his health got worse. This ultimately led to the judge adjusting the sentence, and the inmate eventually filed suit. He was awarded $1 million on Eighth Amendment claims of deliberate indifference to an inmate’s serious medical needs, which included $750,000 in punitive damages.
The facility director appealed the ruling, but the court affirmed, adding “[The director] had no personal interaction with [the plaintiff]. However, [the director] was aware of his serious medical needs and deliberately disregarded them by falsely assuring a judge the [facility] could handle his needs and then failing to take the proper steps to insure that the [facility] could provide adequate care. A prison official may be liable if the official has actual knowledge of a substantial risk of serious harm.”