Articles Posted in U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals

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Volkman, an M.D. and a Ph.D. in pharmacology from University of Chicago, was board-certified in emergency medicine and a “diplomat” of the American Academy of Pain Management. Following lawsuits, he had no malpractice insurance and no job. Hired by Tri-State, a cash-only clinic with 18-20 patients per day, he was paid $5,000 to $5,500 per week. After a few months, pharmacies refused to fill his prescriptions, citing improper dosing. Volkman opened a dispensary in the clinic. The Ohio Board of Pharmacy issued a license, although a Glock was found in the safe where the drugs were stored. Follow-up inspections disclosed poorly maintained dispensary logs; that no licensed physician or pharmacist oversaw the actual dispensing process; and lax security of the drug safe. Patients returned unmarked and intermixed medication. The dispensary did a heavy business in oxycodone. A federal investigation revealed a chaotic environment. Cup filled with urine were scattered on the floor. The clinic lacked essential equipment. Pills were strewn throughout the premises. Months later, the owners fired Volkman, so he opened his own shop. Twelve of Volkman’s patients died. Volkman and the Tri-State owners were charged with conspiring to unlawfully distribute a controlled substance, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1); maintaining a drug-involved premises, 21 U.S.C. 856(a)(1); unlawful distribution of a controlled substance leading to death, 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C), and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime, 18 U.S.C. 24(c)(1) and (2). The owners accepted plea agreements and testified against Volkman, leading to his conviction on most counts, and a sentence of four consecutive terms of life imprisonment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. View "United States v. Volkman" on Justia Law

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Inmate Santiago, complaining of severe pain and a rash, was seen by Dr.Mosher on January 31. Mosher prescribed Tylenol for pain and antibiotics to treat what she thought might be Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The next day Dr. Ringle diagnosed erythema nodosum (EN), an uncomfortable but non-dangerous skin inflammation that typically disappears in about six weeks but may recur. EN has no known cure. Ringle prescribed an anti-inflammatory and an antibiotic. Four days later, Santiago was transferred to OSU Medical Center, where he was diagnosed with EN and arthralgias, a severe joint-pain condition, and prescribed an anti-ulcer agent and a different anti-inflammatory. Santiago was seen on February 20 by an OSU dermatologist, who recommended a topical steroid, compression hose, and SSKI, which may help treat EN but is not standard treatment. Each day, February 22- 25, Santiago asked prison nursing staff about the treatments. Staff denied knowledge until, on the 25th, nurses found Santiago’s unsigned chart on Ringle’s desk. Ringle had been on vacation. Mosher signed the order on February 27. Santiago received the topical steroid on February 29 and compression stockings on March 10. Santiago waited longer for the SSKI, which is a non-formulary drug. The district court rejected Santiago’s suit (42 U.S.C. 1983) based on the delays. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Santiago did not prove that the delay caused a serious medical need or deliberate indifference. View "Santiago v. Ringle" on Justia Law

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On January 21, 2009, Amburgey sought treatment for his persistent pneumonia from Dr. Alam at a Whitesburg, Kentucky clinic run by MCHC. He died that same day from a severe allergic reaction to an intravenous contrast dye that was administered in preparation for a CT scan, despite an allergy notation in his chart. His wife, Delma, sued Dr. Alam, MCHC, and, because MCHC is an agency of the federal government, the United States. On January 20, 2011, Delma mailed the required form for asserting a wrongful-death claim against the government to MCHC. MCHC received the form four days later and in turn forwarded it to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the appropriate federal agency for notification purposes under 28 U.S.C. 2401(b). The district court dismissed the claim as untimely. The Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that Delma’s claim did not accrue until after she had received the autopsy report in April 2009 View "Amburgey v. United States" on Justia Law

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Hughes died after hanging himself from his bed in the Butler County Prison, where he was incarcerated on charges of robbery, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and abuse of the drugs cocaine and Concerta. Hughes showed no outward signs that he was suicidal, but he did have a history of depression and asked to see Tepe, the prison psychiatrist, about anti-depression medication. Hughes and Dr. Tepe never met. Hughes had told an intake worker that he had attempted suicide and had been hospitalized for suicidal ideation. There was a suicide alert in the computer system and Hughes told a paramedic that he had not been taking his prescribed medication. Hughes’s mother filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging deliberate indifference to her son’s serious medical need. Tepe sought summary judgment, arguing that he was The district court held that Tepe could not assert a qualified-immunity defense. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Precedent and public policy do not support immunity for a privately paid physician working for the public. View "McCullum v. Tepe" on Justia Law

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Following the death of Waeschle’s mother, the medical examiner performed an autopsy to determine the cause of her death. While the mother’s remains were returned to Waeschle, the medical examiner retained the brain for further study without Waeschle’s knowledge. After Waeschle discovered that her mother’s brain had been retained and later incinerated as medical waste, she sued, alleging due process violations. The district court dismissed state law claims but declined to dismiss the due process claim, finding that, under Michigan’s clearly established law, next-of-kin have an interest in their deceased relative’s remains/body parts. Following remand and certification of the question, the Michigan Supreme Court responded that: Assuming that a decedent’s brain was removed by a medical examiner to conduct a lawful investigation into the decedent’s cause of death, the decedent’s next of kin does not have a right under Michigan law to possess the brain in order to properly bury or cremate the same after the brain is no longer needed for forensic examination. The district court entered summary judgment for defendants. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, declining to sanction plaintiff for frivolous appeal. View "Waeschle v. Oakland Cnty. Med. Exam'r" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff began experiencing severe headaches and swelling in his left eye in 2007 while incarcerated. Shortly after his release, plaintiff was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a serious form of bone cancer. According to plaintiff, surgery would have been sufficient to treat the disease had prison staff detected it earlier. However, due to the late diagnosis, chemotherapy and radiation are now necessary. In his suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, the district court held that plaintiff pled sufficient facts upon which one could draw the inference that defendants violated the Eighth Amendment and committed medical malpractice. The doctor and nurse filed an interlocutory appeal, arguing that their involvement with plaintiff was minimal and cannot form the basis for a finding of deliberate indifference or gross negligence. The Sixth Circuit reversed, finding the defendants entitled to qualified immunity. Neither negligent medical care, nor delay in providing medical care, can rise to the level of a constitutional violation absent specific allegations of sufficiently harmful acts or omissions reflecting deliberate indifference. View "Reilly v. Vadlamudi" on Justia Law

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In 2004, plaintiff had arthroscopic surgery to treat pain and instability in his shoulder joint. The doctor implanted a pain-pump catheter and, over the next two days, a Stryker pain pump delivered a regular dose of a local anesthetic, bupivicaine, to the joint. Plaintiff’s condition improved after surgery but worsened over time, and in 2008 he learned he no longer had any cartilage remaining in his shoulder, a condition called chondrolysis. He sued, alleging strict liability, negligence and breach of warranty. The district court concluded that Stryker could not reasonably have known about the risk of chondrolysis in 2004 and thus had no duty to warn of the risk and held that Plaintiff failed as a matter of law to prove causation. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. Plaintiff did not present any evidence that Stryker knew or should have known that the use was dangerous or that a warning on Stryker's pain pump would have caused the doctor not to use the device in his joint space. View "Rodriguez v. Stryker Corp." on Justia Law