ILNews

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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