AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Corrections Law
for Jails, Prisons and Detention Facilities


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Medical Care: Eye & Vision Related


     Monthly Law Journal Article: Civil Liability for Inadequate Prisoner Medical Care, 2007 (9) AELE Mo. L.J. 301.
     Monthly Law Journal Article: Forced Feeding or Medication of Prisoners, 2007 (12) AELE Mo. L. J. 301.
     Monthly Law Journal Article:
Legal Issues Pertaining to Inmate Funds, 2008 (4) AELE Mo. L.J. 301. (includes section on recovery of medical costs).
     Monthly Law Journal Article: Transsexual Prisoners: Medical Care Issues, 2009 (8) AELE Mo. L. J. 301.
      Monthly Law Journal Article: Civil Liability for Inadequate Prisoner Dental Care, 2009 (9) AELE Mo. L. J. 301.
     Monthly Law Journal Article: Mental Health Care of Prisoners, 2009 (11) AELE Mo. L. J. 301.
     Monthly Law Journal Article: Shackling of Pregnant Prisoners, 2009 (12) AELE Mo. L. J. 301.
     Monthly Law Journal Article: Avoiding Liability for Antibiotic Resistant Infections in Prisoners, 2011 (3) AELE Mo. L. J. 301.
     Monthly Law Journal Article: Civil Liability for Inadequate Prisoner Medical Care: Eye and Vision Related, 2014 (12) AELE Mo. L. J. 301.

     An inmate claimed that prison officials were deliberately indifferent in refusing him cataract surgery to restore his vision. A federal appeals court ruled that blindness in one eye caused by the cataract was a serious medical condition. It further held that the blanket denial of the surgery, based solely on a policy that "one eye is good enough for prison inmates," if true, could be found to be deliberate indifference by a jury. The record appeared to indicate that prison officials ignored the recommendations of treating medical specialists, instead relying on the opinions of non-specialist and non-treating medical personnel who rendered their decisions based on the administrative policy. Colwell v. Bannister, #12-15844, 763 F.3d 1060 (9th Cir. 2014).
     A prisoner submitted a number of requests for healthcare for his bloodshot left eye, but was allegedly released on parole without receiving treatment. Upon release, he underwent laser surgery for glaucoma in his right eye, but continued to have problems with his left eye. When he was reincarcerated, he made several more attempts to receive treatment, and finally underwent surgery to remove part of his left eye's ciliary body three years later. In his lawsuit claiming deliberate indifference to his glaucoma condition, the trial court denied repeated requests for an appointed lawyer, finding that his claims were not meritorious or overly complex. A federal appeals court found that this denial of appointed counsel was an abuse of discretion and that this abuse impacted on the prisoner's ability to develop and litigate his claim. DeWitt v. Corizon, Inc., #13-2930, 2014 U.S. App. Lexis 14236 (7th Cir.).
     A jail detainee claimed that he became partially blind because of a delay in treatment for his high blood pressure. A doctor and a nurse were entitled to qualified immunity on a claim that they failed to carry out a medical screening of the plaintiff when he was booked into the jail, as there was no clearly established right to a general medical screening upon admission to a detention center. The county was also entitled to summary judgment on the medical screening claim when he did not exhibit obvious signs of a serious medical condition. The expert witness testimony established, at most, negligent medical malpractice in failing to prescribe medication after several high blood pressure readings, but that was insufficient for a constitutional claim. Fourte v. Faulkner County, Arkansas, #13-2241, 2014 U.S. App. Lexis 5451 (8th Cir.).
     While the trial court held that the plaintiff prisoner had voluntarily, and with informed consent, signed a form refusing to have a consultation with a retinal specialist, the appeals court reversed summary judgment for the defendants. It ruled that there were genuine issues of material fact as to the validity as well as the scope of the refusal form. Further proceedings were ordered as to whether any of the individual defendants acted with deliberate indifference on failing to provide him with medical treatment for his retinopathy. Kuhne v. FL Dept. of Corrections, #12-13387, 2014 U.S. App. Lexis 2460, 24 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. C 1013 (11th Cir.).
    A prisoner filed a lawsuit against a health care service and five medical professionals claiming that they were deliberately indifferent to his chronic serious medical conditions of diabetes and Hepatitis C, and that this had caused the need for partial amputation of his feet and visual impairment. He argued that this deliberate indifference was ongoing, subjecting him to a risk of coma, death, or further amputations. While he had filed three previous lawsuits dismissed as frivolous, he was not precluded from proceeding as a pauper on the current lawsuit under the "three strikes" rule of the Prison Litigation Reform Act because his claims of an ongoing risk of additional harm fell within the "imminent danger" exception to that rule. Vandiver v. Prison Health Servs., Inc. #11-1959, 2013 U.S. App. Lexis 17028, 2013 Fed App. 234P (6th Cir.).
     A prisoner claimed that the failure to provide him with prescription eye drops for his glaucoma violated his Eighth Amendment rights as well as constituting negligence under state law. He failed to show that the delays in supplying him with the eye drops was due to deliberate indifference to a serious medical need, and the trial court did not err in declining to retain jurisdiction over the state law negligence claim. Byrd v. Shannon, #11-1744, 709 F.3d 211 (3rd Cir. 2013).
     When a prisoner was examined by a prison doctor and a nurse, complaining of a swollen eye and a headache, they recommended, respectively, a warm compress and the taking of Tylenol. After his release, the prisoner discovered that the swollen eye was because of a rare form of bone cancer. The misdiagnosis by the medical personnel could not support a federal civil rights claim. The doctor only had one brief contact with the prisoner, and there nurse did refer him to an optometrist. "(N)either negligent medical care, nor the delay in providing medical care, can rise to the level of a constitutional violation absent specific allegations of sufficiently harmful acts or omissions reflecting deliberate indifference." Reilly v. Vadlamudi, #11-1252, 680 F.3d 617 (6th Cir. 2012).
     A death row prisoner claimed that the prison's medical director was deliberately indifferent to his serious medical need for eye surgery. Overturning summary judgment for the defendant doctor, a federal appeals court held that there were genuine issues of material fact as to whether he ignored the prisoner's condition of pterygia, a thin film that covers the eye. While that condition is often confined to the white part of the eye, in this case it extended over the corneas, making his uncorrected vision 20/80 as a result, and causing persistent itching and irritation. There was a record showing that a number of doctors recommended surgery, but that their advice was not followed, and the prisoner's eyesight then further deteriorated. Ortiz v. Webster, #10-2012, 655 F.3d 731 (7th Cir. 2011).
     When he was attacked by another prisoner, a pretrial detainee suffered painful injuries to his head and eyes. Despite requesting medical attention, he allegedly received none for five days, and instead was "locked down" for 72 hours following the attack, despite the fact that officers allegedly knew of his obvious injuries, as evidenced by blood, dizziness and vomiting and his complaints of extreme pain. Overturning the dismissal of the lawsuit for failure to state a claim, the appeals court ruled that "even a few days' delay in addressing a severely painful but readily treatable condition suffices to state a claim of deliberate indifference." Smith v. Knox County Jail, #10-1113, 2012 U.S. App. Lexis 1238 (7th Cir. 2012).
     A prisoner failed to show that medical personnel acted with deliberate indifference in failing to diagnose and treat his Fuchs' dystrophy, a corneal disease, since the record showed that they repeatedly examined him (no less than seven times in a nine month period), and recommended piggyback lenses and artificial tears in response to his reports of eye pain. Zuege v. Knoch, #10-3373, 2011 U.S. App. Lexis 10221 (Unpub. 7th Cir.).
     A jury rejected a prisoner's claim that a jail sergeant and a doctor were deliberately indifferent and ignored his need for Crohn's disease treatment and replacement eyeglasses. Upholding this result, the appeals court rejected arguments that the trial court erred in failing to provide him with an appointed lawyer for his lawsuit, since the prisoner was literate and capable of asserting his own claims. The trial judge also did not err in allowing the defense to use evidence of the plaintiff's criminal convictions for the limited purpose of challenging the truthfulness of his testimony. Romanelli v. Suliene, #08-1762, 2010 U.S. App. Lexis 17016 (7th Cir.).
     A detainee's temporary segregation in a medical unit was intended as part of the treatment of his eye infection, and to prevent the spreading of the infection, rather than as punishment. There was no evidence of any link between the prisoner filing grievances about the purported delay in treatment for his eye infection and any alleged adverse action taken against him by correctional employees, such as use of abusive language, threats, or physical abuse. Bendy v. Ocean County Jail, #07-1421, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 16259 (Unpub. 3rd Cir.).
     A prisoner who suffered from a blood clot in his left eye failed to assert a viable disability discrimination claim since the record showed that he was provided with meaningful access to prison programs and facilities. The prisoner also failed to show that the manager of a prison housing unit acted with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs. Indeed, there was no admissible evidence even showing that the defendant was aware of his blood clot. Mason v. Correctional Medical Services, Inc., #.07-2814, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 6068 (8th Cir.).
     A prisoner's allegation that correctional officials knowingly refused to provide treatment or to investigate his request for treatment, specifically ophthalmic evaluation and cataract surgery, failed to establish a claim for disability discrimination. His argument that an allegedly resulting disability was the loss of vision in his right eye did not show that the defendants denied him care on the basis of a disability. The prisoner also failed to show that the defendants acted with deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, or that they acted merely in order to save the cost of treatment, as opposed to acting on a medical finding concerning the stability of his eye condition. Stevenson v. Pramstaller, #07-cv-14040, 2009 U.S. Dist. Lexis 25495 (E.D. Mich.).
     Prisoner, in making a "bare allegation" that a medical services company's custom or policy resulted in progressive detachment of his retina, degeneration, and irreparable damage to his vision, failed to properly establish a federal civil rights claim against the company. There was also no showing that a defendant correctional official had been aware that the prisoner had a serious medical need. The prisoner had a right, however, to file an amended complaint naming other defendants, and could do so without the court's permission so long as the complaint had not yet been answered. Broyles v. Correctional Medical Services, Inc., #08-1638, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 5494 (Unpub. 6th Cir.).
     Any delay in treatment of a sty under a prisoner's left eye did not rise to the level of deliberate indifference to a serious medical need. There was no evidence that medical personnel knew that the inmate's condition posed a substantial risk to his health. The prisoner claimed that the delay caused the sty to grow, blurring his vision, and requiring multiple surgeries. Slater v. Greenwood, No. 08-3042, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 2223 (Unpub. 7th Cir.).
     The failure on a non-medical staff member to take action concerning a prisoner's pre-existing eye condition (a pinhole in the retina of his left eye) did not amount to deliberate indifference but the plaintiff prisoner was entitled to carry out further discovery concerning whether the head of the prison medical unit had knowledge of his complaints but failed to take necessary action. Burks v. Raemish, No. 07-3041, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 2640 (Unpub. 7th Cir.).
     Prisoner's civil rights claims concerning an alleged delay in surgery for a cut close to his eye were time barred under a two-year Pennsylvania statute of limitations, and a state law medical negligence claim also could not be pursued because the prisoner failed to comply with a requirement that he file a medical certificate of merit concerning that claim. Lopez v. Brady, Civil No. 4:CV-07-1126, 2008 U.S. Dist. Lexis 43797 (M.D. Pa.).
     A warden and prison administrator could not be held liable for the alleged improper denial of recommended eye surgery, because they relied on the director of a prison medical clinic to make that determination. The appeals court ruled, however, that summary judgment for the medical director was improper since many doctors had recommended surgery for the visually significant growths that the prisoner had on his eyes, and the medical records did not support the director's argument that he denied surgery because the condition did not interfere with the prisoner's vision. Further proceedings were therefore ordered on the claim against the director. Ortiz v. Bezy, No. 07-3807, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 12885 (Unpub. 7th Cir.).
     An inmate suffering from an eye problem, a cataract, was monitored by doctors, and received eye surgery when it was decided that it was medically necessary. There was no showing that a three-month wait for an eye doctor appointment resulted in any permanent damage or additional harm. The inmate's claims against the Governor of Hawaii were also rejected, and could not be based merely on the fact that she was the governor. Samonte v. Bauman, No. 06-16697, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 1559 (9th Cir.).
     Appeals court rejects prisoner's argument that independent contractors, such as a medical center and doctors providing medical services to federal prisoners were agents of the government. The waiver of sovereign immunity contained in the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. Secs. 2671-2680 does not apply to negligent acts of independent contractors. Additionally, even if the Chief Health Programmer at a facility was found to be a federal employee, a doctor's alleged negligent action of tearing the prisoner's stitches while conducting an examination of his eye was a "subsequent cause," so that any negligence by the Programmer was not the cause of the prisoner's injuries. The prisoner's claims were therefore properly dismissed. Lopez-Heredia v. University of Texas Medical Branch Hospital, No. 05-11365, 2007 U.S. App. Lexis 16102 (5th Cir.).
     Prisoner who reported brief periods of vision loss failed to show that prison doctor acted with deliberate indifference. The record showed that the prisoner was examined promptly after complaining about the problem, and that the prisoner's mere difference of opinion concerning what treatment he should have received was insufficient to establish a constitutional violation. The doctor's actions, if wrongful at all, were at most negligence, and did not violate the Eighth Amendment. Williams v. Ayers, No. 04-15576, 2007 U.S. App. Lexis 805 (9th Cir.). [N/R]
      Prisoner who received nine eye examinations during an eight-month period after he suffered an eye injury during a handball game failed to show that prison officials acted with deliberate indifference to his medical needs. All the prisoner's claims showed was that he was in disagreement with the or treatment offered by optometrists and an ophthalmologist, which is insufficient for an Eighth Amendment claim. The prisoner's lawsuit was properly dismissed as frivolous. Thomas v. Brockbank, No. 05-3480, 2006 U.S. App. Lexis 25547 (10th Cir.). [N/R]
     A prisoner who suffered a loss of sight in one eye knew of the delay in his medical treatment when three months intervened between hospital visits for his eye injury after a fistfight. Accordingly, the statute of limitations began to run after the second hospital visit. While the prisoner sued the county sheriff within the one-year statute of limitations period, he failed to add a doctor as a defendant until more than a year had passed, so that his claim against the doctor and his insurer was barred. McCafferty v. Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office, No. 04-CA-205, 880 So.2d 84 (La. App. 5th Cir. 2004). [N/R]
     Jail nurse who took incoming prisoner's medical history was not liable for any damage allegedly resulting from 51-day delay in eye examination and resumption of medication which worsened his glaucoma when she had no further contact with him after intake process. Prisoner also failed to show that sheriff had any knowledge about his condition or was personally involved, in anyway, in the 51-day delay in scheduling his eye examination. Richardson v. Nassau County, 277 F. Supp. 2d 106 (E.D.N.Y. 2003). [N/R]
     Alleged action of prison nurse of applying the wrong eye drops to the inmate's eyes was not "deliberate indifference" to prisoner's serious medical needs, but at most, merely negligent or unprofessional conduct in failing to check the medication before administering it. Long v. Lafko, 254 F. Supp. 2d 444 (S.D.N.Y. 2003). [N/R]
     Prisoner could not pursue federal civil rights claim against optometrist for failing to immediately treat a retinal tear following an injury to his eye when he could not show that the doctor was subjectively aware of his serious medical needs. Despite the seriousness of the subsequent permanently blurred vision and light sensitivity that the prisoner experienced, the doctor did not act with deliberate indifference since he saw no sign of retinal damage during his examination. Jones v. Van Fleit, #01-4303, 49 Fed. Appx. 626 (7th Cir. 2002). [N/R]
     Prisoner was properly awarded $174,178 in damages for asserted delays in his treatment for glaucoma and skin cancer. Evidence showed that, despite his repeated grievances, treatment was delayed and required surgical removal of a lesion rather than cryosurgery and increased the future risk of skin cancer. Delay in treating glaucoma resulted in corneal swelling and might result in the loss of his eye. Caldwell v. District of Columbia, 201 F. Supp. 2d 27 (D.D.C. 2001). [N/R]
     277:6 Sheriff and deputies were not liable for arrestee's bizarre action of blinding himself by plucking out his eyes; while prisoner's behavior was "increasingly erratic," there was nothing which informed the defendants that he had an intent to harm himself; defendants attempted to care for prisoner and did not act with deliberate indifference. Sibley v. LeMaire, #98-30301, 184 F.3d 481 (5th Cir. 1999).
     267:39 Prison doctors' failure to diagnose tumor which later caused prisoner to go blind was insufficient to assert a claim for deliberate indifference to serious medical condition. Johnson v. Quinones, 145 F.3d 164 (4th Cir. 1998).
     253:7 Prison officials did not violate prisoner's rights by delay in supplying him with sunglasses for light sensitivity when there was medical testimony that this delay did not cause any further damage to prisoner's eye. Crowley v. Hedgepeth, 109 F.3d 500 (8th Cir. 1997).
     261:137 Prisoner's federal lawsuit about alleged delay in cataract surgery on his eye dismissed when he could not show that he pursued all administrative appeals available to him in the California correctional system. Alexandroai v. Calif. Dept. of Corrections, 985 F.Supp. 968 (S.D. Cal. 1997).
     245:69 Trial judge improperly dismissed prisoner's lawsuit against officers for confiscating his prescribed eye-glasses, needed to correct severe double vision and loss of depth perception resulting from injury; prisoner had a "serious medical need" for the glasses, and there was insufficient evidence to dismiss his assertion that officers were subjectively aware of his medical condition. Koehl v. Dalsheim, 85 F.3d 86 (2nd Cir. 1996).
     Detainee who lost an eye receives $273,000 settlement in suit alleging unreasonable use of aerosol spray and inadequate medical care while in custody. Goodman v. Montgomery Co., U.S. Dist. M.D. Ala., No. CV-92-H-1170-N (May 29, 1993), reported in 37 ATLA L. Rep. 56 (March 1994).
     Inmate's claim that he was not provided with medically prescribed eyeglasses stated a claim for deliberate indifference to a serious medical need. Ennis v. Dasovick, 506 N.W.2d 386 (N.D. 1993).
     Prison officials' refusal to provide eyeglasses to prisoner with 20/400 eyesight because he did not have funds to pay for the glasses constituted deliberate indifference to a serious medical need. Benter v. Peck, 825 F.Supp. 1411 (S.D. Iowa 1993).
     Prison doctors did not violate inmate's constitutional rights by prescribing a drug for tuberculosis prevention without informing him of a possible negative impact on his eyesight; prison health care administrator was also not liable. McAleese v. Owens, 770 F.Supp. 225 (M.D. Pa. 1991).
     Inmate blinded in one eye by glaucoma awarded $225,000 for jail medical director's failure to provide him prescription eye drops. Smith v. Franklin, U.S. Dist. Ct., Atlanta, Gal., reported in the Atlanta Journal, Feb. 2, 1991.
     Plastic frame glasses properly issued inmate over metal frames. DeFlumer v. Dalsheim, 505 N.Y.S.2d 919 (A.D. 2 Dept. 1986).
     Sheriff and physician sued for allegedly causing inmate to be legally blind. Weaver v. Jarvis, 611 F.Supp. 40 (N.D. Ga. 1985).
     Defendants could be liable for not re-examining inmate with past eye problems. Aldridge v. Montgomery, 753 F.2d 970 (11th Cir. 1985).

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