Ill inmate’s case resolved in mediation

A case in which a seriously ill inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Somerset said he was forced to crawl to a wheelchair before being taken to the infirmary has been resolved through mediation, according to an order filed by U.S. Magistrate Lisa Pupo Lenihan of Pittsburgh.

Terms of the resolution were not available, and attorneys in the case have been unavailable for comment.

The civil lawsuit filed in 2009 by the inmate, Antonio Pearson, now 47, contended that his rights to competent medical treatment were violated on April 10, 2007, when the Philadelphia native experienced sharp pains in his abdomen.

He reported to the prison infirmary in the afternoon, and a nurse scheduled him for “sick call” the next day. She thought he suffered from a pulled muscle.

As his pain increased, he went back to the infirmary in the early evening, and a second nurse offered him Tylenol or Maalox for what she thought was a gall bladder problem.

At 11 p.m., he reported to the block officer that he was still suffering from severe pain.

The officer reported the inmate’s condition to nurse David Rhodes, who at first refused to come to the cell because Pearson had already been seen by two nurses.

Pearson “screamed” for help throughout the night, and Rhodes eventually brought a wheelchair to the cell.

According to the lawsuit, the nurse told Pearson he would take him to the infirmary only if he came and sat in the wheelchair. Unable to walk, Pearson claimed he crawled to the wheelchair.

Rhodes suspected appendicitis but held Pearson in the infirmary until the next day when a doctor ordered him taken to Somerset Hospital where his appendix was removed.

Several days later, Pearson was returned to the hospital for an operation caused by bleeding, a result of the first operation.

His initial lawsuit named more than 20 defendants, including the nurses, a prison doctor, the Somerset Hospital and the prison medical service, but as his case, filed in the U.S. District Court in Johnstown, proceeded through the court system, District Judge Kim R. Gibson twice dismissed it.

On March 7, a panel of 3rd Circuit judges in Philadelphia, overturned Gibson’s dismissal, concluding, “Pearson’s claim that he was forced to crawl to the wheelchair creates a genuine dispute as to whether Nurse Rhodes acted with deliberate indifference.

“Viewing the record in Pearson’s favor, as we must, Nurse Rhodes forced a patient, who had been screaming in pain for several hours, to crawl to a wheelchair despite indicating he was unable to walk,” the 31-page appeals court opinion stated.

It rejected Gibson’s conclusion that a medical expert, which Pearson did not have, was needed before it could be concluded that his Eighth Amendment right (against cruel and unusual punishment) had been violated.

In a precedential opinion, the judges reasoned that a lay person could come to a fair verdict.

While the 3rd Circuit upheld Gibson’s decision to dismiss the lawsuit against all of the other defendants, it sent the case back to the District Court for further proceedings against Rhodes.

Last week, Gibson sent it to Magistrate Judge Lenihan in Pittsburgh to see if it could be settled through mediation.

After two hours of mediation on Friday, the case was marked “resolved.”

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