Saturday, September 18, 2010

Two Northern California State Prisoners Lose Lack of Medical Care Claims

Both of these cases involve claims under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 for violations of a prisoner's right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment as provided in the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Deliberate indifference to a prisoner's serious medical need violates the Eighth Amendment.  However, a difference of opinion regarding treatment does not amount to deliberate indifference.

In Ramirez v. Dayalan, the plaintiff complained of a staph infection, to which he received treatment he believed was ineffective resulting in the condition worsening into Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).  Despite several months of treatment the condition persisted.  The defense produced a statement from an expert who explained that the treatment was consistent with what one would receive outside a prison setting.  Recurrences are unfortunately common, even when treated properly.  Judge William Alsup found that this case amounted to a disagreement over treatment between the prisoner and physician which cannot substantial a 1983 claim.

In Gonzales v. Runnels, medical officials treated the plaintiff 114 times between March 25, 2005 and November 2, 2007 for a series of symptoms.  The complaint argues that Mr. Gonzales had torn his rotator cuff, sought surgery to repair it and never received it.  Judge Marilyn Hall Patel noted that no evidence other than the plaintiff's statements established that he had torn a rotator cuff, nonetheless, those statements alone are enough, since a jury could find that he had a serious medical need.  However, there is no evidence that the defendants were deliberately indifferent to his condition.  To the contrary, the saw Mr. Gonzales, provided him with pain killers, took x-rays, and that satiated him for a period of time.  Judge Patel granted summary judgment for the prison doctors and officials.

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