The inmate serving life without parole for murder had already lost a leg. He had little left to lose when he picked up a pen and wrote out his medical malpractice lawsuit on 26 pages of lined prison paper. He won…
Macon, GAIt was a Georgia medical malpractice lawsuit in its most basic form: written in longhand by a convicted murderer and filed from prison initially without an attorney. That was in 2014. However, lest one assume that plaintiff Michael Tarver, an inmate at the Macon State Prison would face an uphill battle in his lawsuit, in the end Tarver would win the day with a settlement before his case had a chance to go to trial.
And the lone defendant in the case, the medical director of the facility, would resign from her position two weeks following the settlement announcement.
The Georgia inmate sued the medical director of the prison for inadequate care
According to a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (11/11/17), plaintiff Michael Tarver is serving out a sentence of life in prison without parole for the murder of a convenience store clerk in 1994. However, regardless of a convicted criminal’s alleged or proven crime, an incarceration facility nonetheless has a mandate to provide health services for inmates. WSB-TV2 Atlanta (09/25/17) notes that the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution prohibits governments from imposing cruel and inhuman punishment through the withholding of healthcare services, or through the provision of inadequate care, amongst other provisions.
The basis for Tarver’s 2014 Georgia malpractice lawsuit was the amputation of his left leg, which the plaintiff asserts may not have been necessary had he received adequate care.
According to the news report, a grievous infection in the plaintiff’s leg stemmed from a small laceration he suffered just above the ankle after slipping on a wet floor in the prison kitchen. A diabetic, Tarver is described as particularly vulnerable to infection. Tarver asserts the infection grew more serious even as he languished in the prison infirmary for observation. In depositions, the lone defendant in the case – identified as Dr. Chiquita Fye – indicated she had prescribed antibiotics to the 55-year-old diabetic on two occasions, and on one occasion had him seen by the emergency room staff at a Macon-area hospital.
However, various prison nurses opined in depositions that tissue inside Tarver’s wound had turned black, and was foul-smelling. He was subsequently evacuated to the Atlanta Medical Center, where doctors had little choice but to amputate his left leg above the knee.
Some would think the plaintiff didn’t have a leg to stand on. His attorney knew better
Tarver sued Fye, who served as the Medical Director of the Macon State Prison, in a Georgia medical damages lawsuit. While the matter was awaiting trial, the Atlanta Journal-Constitutionreported in August of last year that five former healthcare workers at the prison provided depositions in support of the plaintiff, while at the same time critical of the care Fye provided to inmates. Fye’s detractors suggest the physician, a graduate of the Emory University School of Medicine with one of the longest tenures in the state prison system, nonetheless harbored a disdain for convicted criminals, which in turn affected her capacity to provide the inmates with the care they required – or so it was alleged.
In response to those allegations, representatives from Georgia Correctional HealthCare (GCHC) and the state Department of Corrections conducted a site visit at the prison on September 15 of last year, ten days before a trial was to begin. The defendant was interviewed, together with ten prison employees. A one-page summary produced from the site visit concluded that while Fye could be blunt and was less than tactful, at the end of the day they found no evidence of inadequate care.
Fye had earlier testified in depositions associated with the medical malpractice lawsuit that she had not noticed the foul odor stemming from the plaintiff’s injury, nor had she noted the color and condition of tissue associated with the wound.
While still in prison, the plaintiff wound up with over half a million dollars
In spite of the GCHC findings, the State of Georgia decided to settle ahead of a scheduled trial in federal court in Macon, Georgia. The settlement was worth $550,000.
Two weeks after that decision, Dr. Fye – the defendant in the case – announced her intention to resign. WSB-TV2 noted that in spite of the settlement GCHC continued to stand behind Fye, saying in a statement, “GCHC human resources professionals interviewed providers at Macon State Prison and found that Dr. Fye continually exhibits professionalism and sound judgment when caring for her patients.” The statement was made by way of an email composed by Christen Engel, the associate vice president for communications for Augusta University. GCHC is an offshoot of Augusta U., which provides healthcare services to the Department of Corrections for the State.
Fye however resigned anyway.
There was no specific case information available. Following the amputation of his leg in 2012, Tarver composed his Georgia malpractice lawsuit in longhand on 26 lined pages, and originally submitted his case pro se, without a lawyer. However, he soon found an attorney to represent him.
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