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Epileptic inmate settles suit

An epileptic inmate who was injured after he fell from the top of his bunk during a seizure has settled his federal lawsuit against officials at a state prison.

Andrew Barrett Friedman, who is serving time in the Hagerstown jail, said he informed the warden, Roderick Sowers, and other jail officials about his medical condition, and asked for a bottom bunk. Friedman, however, claimed that they ignored the request, in spite of the fact that the medical order for a lower bunk was printed on his inmate identification card.

“By failing to provide Mr. Friedman with a bottom bunk, as required by a medical order and by his identification tag, [Sowers and others] acted with deliberate indifference to conditions posing a substantial risk of serious future harm to him,” Friedman said in an amended complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.

When he suffered a seizure on Sep. 18, 2009, he badly hurt his ankle, Friedman said. When this happened, the officer on duty went to his cell to see what was going on. The duty officer called Scott A. Gladhill, a sergeant and another defendant in the case, to tell Gladhill about the fact that Friedman had suffered a seizure. Gladhill, however, allegedly radioed back to the officer on duty and said “I don’t care what they say, you saw them fighting.”

Friedman said it took 11 more days until he was relocated and given a lower bunk.

He accused Sowers and the other prison administrators of violating his civil rights, and sought unspecified compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees.

“Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code requires that any person who, under color of any statute subjects any citizen within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in the action at law and in equity,” Friedman said in his suit.

He originally filed the suit on his own behalf on Dec. 17, 2009. Judge Peter J. Messitte assigned Joseph B. Espo and Brooke E. Lierman, attorneys at Brown, Goldstein & Levy LLP in Baltimore, to serve as Friedman’s counsel.

Espo declined Monday to comment on the terms of the settlement. He did, however, say that there should have been an alert in the computer system notifying the prison official in charge of assigning Friedman to a cell that would accommodate his medical condition.

“It’s a convoluted system,” he said. “The alert was not there.”

Stephanie Judith Lane-Weber, an attorney in the Office of the Maryland Attorney General, represented Sowers and the other jail officials.

Lane-Weber filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment in June 2010, but Messitte rejected this request.

“The undisputed facts establish that [Friedman] had a medical order for a lower bunk dated June 27, 2009, but he was nonetheless assigned to an upper bunk from which he fell during a seizure,” Messitte wrote in a Dec. 22, 2010, memorandum. “Whether the failure to provide [him] with a lower bunk to accommodate his physical disability was done with the knowledge that there was a valid medical order in existence is the subject of a genuine dispute of material fact.”

The judge also noted that it was “undisputed … that [Friedman’s] medication has been disrupted on a number of occasions.”

“Plaintiff provides documentation indicating that he went thirty days without his medication, filed an administrative remedy procedure complaint (ARP) about the matter, and the complaint was found meritorious,” Messitte said.

David Paulson, a spokesman for Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, declined Monday to comment on the terms of the settlement because a final draft of agreement had not been signed.

Paulson said the Board of Public Works has to approve any settlement over $10,000. Settlements under $10,000 must be approved by the agency head and the Office of the Attorney General, Paulson said. For Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services cases, Secretary Gary Maynard must approve all settlements.

Money is not permitted in prisons. Money may be put in an inmate’s account, but there is no mechanism to “oversee” what he does with the money, Paulson said. Once in the account, the inmate may be able to place money in an external account.

ANDREW BARRETT FRIEDMAN V. RODERICK SOWERS ET AL.

Court:

U.S. District Court, Greenbelt

Case No.:

8:09-cv-03379-PJM

Judge:

Peter J. Messitte

Outcome:

Undisclosed settlement

Dates:

Incident: Sept. 18, 2009

Suit filed: Dec. 17. 2009

Settlement order: May 3, 2013

Plaintiff’s attorneys:

Joseph B. Espo and Brooke E. Lierman, Brown, Goldstein & Levy LLP in Baltimore

Defendants’ attorney:

Stephanie Judith Lane-Weber, Maryland Attorney General’s office

Counts:

Two counts of civil rights violations.