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Can an inmate sue a county jail for medical negligence?

Reading, PA |

An inmate was transferred to county jail from a state prison where he was on daily medication. Once at the county jail he never received his medicine until 10 days after his arrival. His reason for the inquiry about a lawsuit is because w/out his medication there is a chance for a stroke, heart attack, etc. He feels as though his medical condition wasn't taken seriously.

Attorney Answers 3


The direct answer to your question is yes, an inmate may sue for medical negligence. But it works differently than if he was not an inmate. The burden of proof is higher & more difficult for him to prove a case. According to a 5th Circuit federal appellate court ruling called Estelle v. Gamble, the inmate must prove that the prison acted with conscious indifference to his rights and welfare in denying him his medications. This is very, very hard to do. It essentially requires a plaintiff to "crawl inside the head" of a prison guard or warden or prison physician and determine what they were thinking. Most of the time, it means you must get them to admit on the record that they didn't care about his health. That rarely happens for obvious reasons.

Also, if he isn't hurt badly by this medicine issue, then he would not have the level of injury & damages necessary to economically justify the expense of medical malpractice litigation. These cases are very costly. The injury must usually involve death or a permanent physical disability to make a case viable.

I am not licensed in PA and I do not know the laws in your state. I cannot advise you on the critical deadlines like the statute of limitations. To obtain truly competent advice, you shoudl speak to a local PA lawyer with experience in this area. Good luck.

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You have been extremely helpful and I appreciate you taking the time to answer this question.


Yes you have a right to file a suit. Unfortunately, until something happens to you (stroke) you will not have damages to proceed with the lawsuit. Better answer is to take steps to get your medication. Sometimes assistance from an outside relative can help. Have somebody call the facility. And keep callim
Ng until something is done.

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Yes, but without sustaining damages, a lawsuit would be fruitless.

The answer does not create an attorney/client relationship and is for informational purposes only.

Lassen Law Firm
1515 Market St #1510
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Licensed in PA & NJ. 29% Contingency Fee. Phone: 215-510-6755

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