Former inmate files suit over medical care

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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A former Indiana Department of Correction inmate has filed a federal suit claiming that county jail staff and contracted medical personnel didn't give him proper medical care and contributed to his development of cancer while he was behind bars.

New Richmond resident Phillip Andrew Springer filed suit Thursday in the U.S. District Court in Indianapolis seeking damages against the Putnam County Sheriff's Department, correctional authorities, and contracted medical providers for "deliberate indifference" to his medical needs while he was incarcerated. As a result, the now 28-year-old is paralyzed, needs constant care from his parents, and may have a year to live, the lawsuit claims.

Named as defendants in the suit are Putnam County Sheriff's Department, Sheriff Mark Frisbee, a correctional officer serving as a jail nurse, the jail physician, the Missouri company Correctional Medical Services that contracts with the state's DOC, and three medical personnel working for the company.

"This is one of the worst examples of negligence and deliberate indifference to an inmate's serious medical needs that I've seen in a very long time," said Indianapolis attorney Richard Waples, who is representing Springer. "Now, he will pay for their indifference with his life."

The case comes from Springer's arrest in April 2006 on alcohol-related charges that landed him in Montgomery County jail. The suit says that Springer moved between the Montgomery and Putnam jails and two state DOC facilities - one in Plainfield and one in Putnamville - during the next five months, but he was repeatedly denied medical care despite authorities' knowledge of his medical history. He'd had cancerous tumors removed from his lower spine following two surgeries in 2000, and doctors told him that any back pain he developed should be examined immediately because it could mean a recurrence of the cancer, according to the suit.

In his 11-page suit, Springer details how various county and state officials either ignored or delayed his and his parents' claims for medical examinations, and when he did receive them the medical personnel "ignored the gravity of the situation." As a result, Springer alleges that his condition worsened; he became partially paralyzed before finally being transported to the hospital for evaluation, where tests showed he had cancerous tumors on his upper spine and the cancer had spread to his brain.

The sentencing judge in Montgomery County, David Ault, intervened and released him from the state's custody in August 2007 to allow for radiation treatment.

Springer's suit claims the defendants participated in cruel and unusual punishment and denied him needed medical services.

"Defendants' actions and failures to act were deliberately indifferent to Mr. Springer's serious, life threatening medical needs," the suit says. "Defendants' actions and inactions have caused Mr. Springer tremendous pain and suffering and will result in his death."

Chief Judge David F. Hamilton has been assigned to the case, which plaintiffs have requested to be placed on an expedited timetable because of Springer's condition.

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  1. This new language about a warning has not been discussed at previous meetings. It's not available online. Since it must be made public knowledge before the vote, does anyone know exactly what it says? Further, this proposal was held up for 5 weeks because members Carol and Lucy insisted that all terms used be defined. So now, definitions are unnecessary and have not been inserted? Beyond these requirements, what is the logic behind giving one free pass to discriminators? Is that how laws work - break it once and that's ok? Just don't do it again? Three members of Carmel's council have done just about everything they can think of to prohibit an anti-discrimination ordinance in Carmel, much to Brainard's consternation, I'm told. These three 'want to be so careful' that they have failed to do what at least 13 other communities, including Martinsville, have already done. It's not being careful. It's standing in the way of what 60% of Carmel residents want. It's hurting CArmel in thT businesses have refused to locate because the council has not gotten with the program. And now they want to give discriminatory one free shot to do so. Unacceptable. Once three members leave the council because they lost their races, the Carmel council will have unanimous approval of the ordinance as originally drafted, not with a one free shot to discriminate freebie. That happens in January 2016. Why give a freebie when all we have to do is wait 3 months and get an ordinance with teeth from Day 1? If nothing else, can you please get s copy from Carmel and post it so we can see what else has changed in the proposal?

  2. Here is an interesting 2012 law review article for any who wish to dive deeper into this subject matter: Excerpt: "Judicial interpretation of the ADA has extended public entity liability to licensing agencies in the licensure and certification of attorneys.49 State bar examiners have the authority to conduct fitness investigations for the purpose of determining whether an applicant is a direct threat to the public.50 A “direct threat” is defined as “a significant risk to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated by a modification of policies, practices or procedures, or by the provision of auxiliary aids or services as provided by § 35.139.”51 However, bar examiners may not utilize generalizations or stereotypes about the applicant’s disability in concluding that an applicant is a direct threat.52"

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  5. Research by William J Federer Chief Justice John Marshall commented May 9, 1833, on the pamphlet The Relation of Christianity to Civil Government in the United States written by Rev. Jasper Adams, President of the College of Charleston, South Carolina (The Papers of John Marshall, ed. Charles Hobson, Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2006, p, 278): "Reverend Sir, I am much indebted to you for the copy of your valuable sermon on the relation of Christianity to civil government preached before the convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in Charleston, on the 13th of February last. I have read it with great attention and advantage. The documents annexed to the sermon certainly go far in sustaining the proposition which it is your purpose to establish. One great object of the colonial charters was avowedly the propagation of the Christian faith. Means have been employed to accomplish this object, and those means have been used by government..." John Marshall continued: "No person, I believe, questions the importance of religion to the happiness of man even during his existence in this world. It has at all times employed his most serious meditation, and had a decided influence on his conduct. The American population is entirely Christian, and with us, Christianity and Religion are identified. It would be strange, indeed, if with such a people, our institutions did not presuppose Christianity, and did not often refer to it, and exhibit relations with it. Legislation on the subject is admitted to require great delicacy, because freedom of conscience and respect for our religion both claim our most serious regard. You have allowed their full influence to both. With very great respect, I am Sir, your Obedt., J. Marshall."