Written by: Beth Boone, Esq.  and Steven P. Bristol, Esq. Incarceration is big business in the United States, with costs to taxpayers estimated at over $80 billion dollars per year for the estimated 2.2 million individuals in custody. From county jails to state prisons, correctional healthcare providers are in the news daily, from questions and concerns regarding the expenses of jail and prison healthcare contracts to inmates alleging indifference to their medical needs or substandard care by local, state, and federal employees or governmental contract providers. Defending correctional healthcare providers can involve professional negligence and medical malpractice claim management, while often juggling federal civil rights allegations in the same action. The interplay of state and federal causes of action and rights with custodial issues makes the defense of these matters, from pro se inmates to families seeking wrongful death claims through highly skilled attorneys, an increasingly complex matter. Historically, most…       Read More

Written by: Beth Boone, Esq. Healthcare providers in the correctional setting face many unique challenges while providing care to individuals being detained or in the custody of the government. Chronically ill patients, historically non-compliant populations, mental health problems, drug and alcohol issues and communicable diseases all interplay with treatment. When interacting with nurses, physicians, dentists and mental health professionals in this industry, the age old questions about documentation always arises. If I didn’t see it should I document it happened? If I am relying on what the patient told me do I somehow indicate that it is hearsay? Should I document “allegedly” or independently verify with the correctional officers? Some reminders about charting may be useful.Healthcare providers in the correctional setting face many unique challenges while providing care to individuals being detained or in the custody of the government. Chronically ill patients, historically non-compliant populations, mental health problems, drug and…       Read More

Written by: Phillip E. Friduss, Esq. So, you have a restraint chair policy. Quite often, our healthcare policies are two-fold, one part governing law enforcement initiated restraints, the other dictating a different set of rules for the medically initiated restraint situations. This quick blog raises the question of why ever it is that today there would be a difference in the rounding requirements for these two scenarios. Institutional policies vary across the county, with greater medical supervision required on the medically imposed chair-restrained inmate than that of the case of law enforcement initiated restraint. After initial medical review, here the differences can be between making 15 minute rounds (medical) and every-hour rounds (law enforcement). But, why? This may have made sense in the 70’s because there was little discussion about why it is inmates every so often (not to overstate the case) die in restraint chairs. But, today we should…       Read More

Written by: Jennifer Herzog, Esq. & Nick Kinsley The 7th Circuit, sitting en banc, recently decided a case involving the issue of deliberate indifference and the Eighth Amendment in regard to correctional healthcare in which the majority and dissent articulate two very different approaches.  In Petties v. Carter,[1] the plaintiff, Tyrone Petties, ruptured his Achilles tendon while at the Stateville Correctional Facility.  Dr. Imhotep Carter, a co-defendant in the case, followed some, but not all, of the applicable protocol by giving Petties crutches, ice, Vicodin, and authorizing “lay-in” meals.  Dr. Carter referred Petties to a specialist, but the appointment did not occur until about six weeks later.  The specialist gave an orthopedic boot to Petties, but experts testified that boot should have been given at the time of the injury to immobilize the rupture.  A different ankle specialist believed surgery might be necessary, but Dr. Carter did not order surgery due…       Read More

Written by: Beth Boone, Esq. Hall Booth Smith, PC (HBS) proudly participated in several national correctional and correctional health care conferences in 2016, including exhibiting at the American Correctional Association’s Annual Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, in January 2016, and the ACA’s Congress of Correction in Boston, Massachusetts, in August 2016. Additionally, HBS attended and exhibited at the National Commission on Correctional Health Care’s Spring Conference at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, in April 2016. Just as these organizations are committed to improving practices in the delivery and quality of health care in correctional settings, HBS serves to achieve excellence by providing the highest quality legal representation its clients, including industry-specific participation and knowledge in the correctional and correctional health care arena. At HBS, we understand the liability implications created by correctional health care regulations, mandates, and legal standards. Handling correctional health care cases requires a unique understanding of…       Read More

Written by: Jennifer Dorminey Herzog, Esq. Between 1990 and 2011, the Georgia adult prison population more than doubled to nearly 56,000 inmates.[i]   Georgia’s incarceration rate in 2011 – 1 in 70 adults behind bars – was the fourth highest in the nation.  Meanwhile, the state’s recidivism rate hovered at roughly 30% for a decade.[ii]   To attempt to address the problem, the legislature created the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform (initially known as the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform for Georgians). The Council was directed to investigate the dynamics driving prison growth and costs and recommend improvements.  As the Council enters its sixth year of work, there is a continuing decline of Georgia’s prison population, which stood at 51,822 at the end of 2015.[iii] About 70 percent of Georgia’s inmates do not have a high school diploma, and many of those released from prison have difficulty locating work, contributing to…       Read More

Written By: Beth Boone It seems that there are almost daily reports of encounters between law enforcement and mentally ill individuals, some with devastatingly fatal consequences for the families who initiate the contact by calling for assistance with their loved one, and conversely, often dangerous situations for the police in responding to the same. But what happens after the arrest of these individuals is generally not as publicized. The Emporia Gazette in Kansas recently had a series of articles regarding fewer mental health institutions in that state, with the lack of funding and facilities resulting in, among other things, more mentally ill inmates in local jails. The number of inmates with mental illnesses is just one of many unique challenges to health care providers working in a correctional setting. While historically the inmate population has had a high prevalence of mental health issues, many published studies cite the closing of…       Read More

Beth Boone, Partner at HBS will be presenting Recent Trends in Correctional Health Care Litigation at the annual American Correctional Health Services Association 2015 South East Region Fall Conference At the Savannah Marriot on Saturday, September 19. Attendees will include Physicians, Pharmacist, Psychiatrists, Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants, MH Professionals, Pharmaceutical Reps, and Nurses from around the South East Region.  The conference will be hosted at the Savannah Marriot Hotel from September 18th through the 20th. For more information please visit: www.achsa.org

Mike Frick, Partner at HBS presented Anatomy of a Lawsuit in a Correctional Healthcare Setting at the American Correctional Health Services Association National Conference on March 20th, 2015 in Orlando, FL.  Mr. Frick presented an informative and entertaining anatomy of how a lawsuit can occur in a correctional healthcare setting. From an initial fact pattern, the audience will be walked through how a seemingly innocuous, every day event becomes litigation. Many interested scenarios were presented and discussed from both the plaintiff and defense perspectives, from the initial event and documentation of the same through a resolution via settlement or a trial. Attendees learned how policies and procedures, the medical record, interactions with the claimant and/or plaintiff and his or her counsel, as well as testimony at depositions and trial are all vitally important.

Any health care practitioner in the correctional healthcare setting can see what appears to be either a more recent upswing in actual claims and lawsuits, or at least what appears to be more frequent news media accounts of the same. http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/28/us/alabama-gangrene-madison-county-jail-lawsuits/index.html?hpt=hp_t2  While medical malpractice or professional negligence claims that occur in private practice settings are generally more commonly litigated, there are basic differences which make the defense of these actions unique. First, most medical malpractice actions are generally based upon state –based tort claims, which could be state statutes or case law in that jurisdiction that gives right to that specific cause of action. Most lawsuits in the correctional healthcare setting include federal claims of civil right violations, in addition to state-based tort claims. So by the very nature of the claims, while many medical malpractice actions are filed in state court, most correctional healthcare companies or individual health care…       Read More