Inmate Knee Infection Lawsuit

Inmate v. Berrera

Knee SurgeryThis medical malpractice claim was filed in Allegany County after an inmate at NBCI was denied appropriate postoperative care. It was filed in Health Claims Arbitration on February 1, 2018, and it is the 61st medical malpractice case filed in Maryland this year.

Summary of Plaintiff's Allegations

A man injured his knee while playing basketball, and physicians at Sinai Hospital determined that he required surgery to repair his fractured knee and torn ACL. Before the surgery could be performed, the man was incarcerated. He unsuccessfully attempted to obtain medical treatment for his knee on numerous occasions.

Ten years after his initial incarceration, the man reinjured his knee at North Branch Correctional Institution (NBCI), again while playing basketball. He was scheduled to see the prison's outside orthopedic specialist. An MRI showed the previously torn ACL, as well as a new tear in the meniscus disc.

The man underwent surgery at the local hospital and was placed in the Western Correctional Institution infirmary for recovery. A doctor examined him the next day and approved him to return to NBCI. The man was never scheduled for a bandage change or follow-up examination at NBCI.

After three days, the man removed his knee brace and bandages to take a shower and replaced the brace and bandages when he was done. After two more days, the man removed his knee brace and bandages to shower again. This time, he did not reuse the bandages because they were bloody, sweaty, and stinking. Instead, the man fashioned makeshift bandages out of toilet paper.

Approximately two weeks later, the man started to notice a red, sore area surrounding his incision site. He requested a medical consult, but he was never called. Soon after, a liquid discharge leaked out of the incision site while the man was asleep. By the time he woke up, the discharge had dried, sticking his thigh to his bedsheet and ripping a stitch out of his leg when he tried to get up. Because the tissue surrounding his stitches had deteriorated with infection, the man was left with a hole in his leg "the size of a No. 2 pencil eraser."

Before long, all of the man's stitches became infected. He continued to ask for medical treatment and his requests were continually ignored, so the man took it upon himself to buy antibiotics from another inmate. Eventually, one month after his surgery, the man was seen by a registered nurse practitioner. The nurse refused to remove the remaining stitch because the lump under the stitch may require drainage, but she wanted to see how his infection reacted to the antibiotics first. That night, the man used a razor to cut the stitch out himself.

Two days after his appointment with the nurse, the man went to his first physical therapy visit. Because of the infection, the physical therapist decided not to perform any therapy until he consulted with the nurse. The man has yet to receive any meaningful medical treatment.

Additional Comments
  • The claimant worked as a tattoo artist before his incarceration, so he recognized that the bacteria growing on his used bandages could cause an infection. Along with his statement of claim, the claimant included a statement from his cellmate corroborating the infection narrative, the medical record from his visit with the nurse at NBCI, the Request for Administrative Remedy he sent to the NBCI Warden, research about surgical site infections, and his postoperative instructions.

  • The claimant did a nice, thorough job drafting his handwritten complaint, but malpractice lawsuits are difficult for an inmate to win. Hopefully, he is putting his skills to work and helping other inmates. But without an expert witness to attest that the medical care he received was below the standard of practice, his case will not make it out of the Health Claims Arbitration Office. Finding an expert witness is difficult without a lawyer's help, and the claimant doesn't mention any significant injuries that might persist even after he receives proper medical care. It's unfortunate because the man is clearly suffering from an easily preventable medical error.

  • Of course, this is not our case and we cannot speak to the care rendered to this patient. But our prison medical care system can sometimes be generously described as spotty.

Jurisdiction
  • Allegany County
Defendants
  • Two internists in Cumberland.
Hospitals Where Patient was Treated
  • Sinai Hospital
Negligence
  • Failing to comply with the doctor's orders to schedule dressing changes and a follow-up appointment.
  • Failing to respond to the claimant's multiple requests for urgent medical care.
  • Failing to appreciate the seriousness of the claimant's condition.
Specific Counts Pled
  • As a result of the defendants' negligence, the claimant suffered a prolonged incision-site infection from which he has yet to recover.

Plaintiff Firm/Attorneys
  • Pro se, which means he is handling his case on his own without the help of a lawyer
Getting a Lawyer for Your Malpractice Claim

Have you suffered a hospital injury due to the negligence of a doctor? Miller&Zois can help you. Call us at 800-553-8082 and speak to one of our medical malpractice attorneys who can help you or get an online case review.

More Malpractice Claim Information
  • This might be the second time this lawsuit was filed. Here is what appears to be the same prisoner medical malpractice lawsuit, this one against Wexford also in Cumberland last year. In this suit, just the doctors are named.

  • Overdose lawsuit filed by an inmate at Jessup

  • Larynx cancer misdiagnosis lawsuit brought against Wexford Health Services. The distinguishing factor of this inmate lawsuit is that the victim has a lawyer.

  • Another attorney represented inmate lawsuit, this one is a missed pulmonary embolism malpractice case filed against Wexford in Baltimore City.

  • Hep C infection lawsuit against Wexford in Cumberland

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