Inmate Medical Malpractice Lawsuit in Maryland

Inmaete v. Wexford Health Services

Nursing Home elder This is a medical negligence lawsuit filed by a prisoner against Wexford Health Services. He filed this claim in Health Claims Arbitration on February 15, 2017. It is the 81st medical malpractice case filed in Maryland in 2017.

Summary of Plaintiff's Allegations

Plaintiff is housed at North Branch Correctional Institute in Cumberland. He complains repeatedly about a prior injury to his left knee. One day while he was jogging, his knee buckled and this causes him severe pain. He goes to a nurse, who documents an "abnormal lump" on the man's knee. The nurse tells him that if his ligaments are torn, he would not be walking. Surgery is scheduled.

The nurse does an X-ray, which does not reveal any explanations for the lumps. He receives a cortisone knee injection for pain. One night while he is sleeping, his sheet becomes wrapped around his leg. When he turns over, his leg does not turn, as the sheet is stuck under his hip. His knee turns, and then the bones slightly separate. The man immediately wakes up and grabs his knee. He sees a bone on the inner side of his knee slightly poking out.

He has to place his mattress by his door and sleeps on the floor, to avoid having to move when his tray of food comes. Plaintiff alleges that each time he calls the onsite doctor, he refuses to see the man. Plaintiff claims that the officers were aware of his knee injury, and alleges that one officer told him to "do what he has to do." Plaintiff alleges that eventually he was able to force the doctor to see him.

The doctor allegedly refuses to send the plaintiff a wheelchair, so the officers had to help carry him around. The doctor places him on Tylenol and gives him a medical order to use a wheelchair for seven days. However, he injures his knee again, at which point a nurse notes swelling and tenderness. She orders an X-ray. The X-ray reveals bone spurs and a lack of space behind plaintiff's knee. The nurse tells him that the only possible option is an orthoscopic surgery to eliminate the bone spurs. Plaintiff alleges some other events happening, the sequencing of which is unclear.

Eventually, plaintiff is called to the Main Medical Building to see defendant doctor. Defendant doctor tells the plaintiff that since he can walk, the probably won't do surgery. Defendant pulled up the X-ray report that was previously done and then asked him if he wanted another injection. The plaintiff agreed to the injection, it is done, and then he returns to his cell.

Soon after, the man's entire left side of his knee, the injection site, is completely numb. He calls the medical unit multiple times but claims he is ignored. When a doctor finally examines him and removes the bandage, she notices a bruising, puffy sack that is tender. She finds that his knee is infected and orders Tylenol and antibiotics. Plaintiff claims he never signed a waiver of liability for the injection.

Additional Comments
  • The prisoner does a really nice job drafting a handwritten complaint. But there are two high hurdles to climb. First, without an expert providing a certificate and report, this claim will be dismissed. Second, even the man had a lawyer, he has not articulated an injury that would economically justify a malpractice lawsuit. There is no suggestion in the Complaint that he has a permanent injury from the infection. The inmate is suing for $75,000 from each defendant which sounds appropriate to the size of the claim (although he should not limit his claim in the Complaint). But the economics of hiring an expert and trying a case do not support a case of that size.
  • With few exceptions, prisoner malpractice lawsuits do not go very far. But we all know that there is a lot of awful care in these prisons. There is a high malpractice rate outside of prisons where there is real accountability for neligence. What do you think the rate is inside prisons?
  • Orthopedic malpractice cases are often difficult cases. They have a low success rate.
Jurisdiction
  • Presumably Allegany County
Defendants
  • Prison doctor
  • Wexford Health Services, Inc.
Negligence
  • Conducting a knee injection without having plaintiff sign the waiver of liability and notifying him of the risks
  • Failing to properly sterilizing equipment, causing a severe infection
Specific Counts Pled
  • Negligence
  • Malpractice
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