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9th Circuit: Jail (Officer) Failure to Follow Doctor’s Orders

 

by Jack Ryan, J.D.



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In Webb v. Douglas County [Oregon], the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reviewed a lawsuit brought on behalf of an inmate, Webb, who suffered serious harm following a brain aneurism while in jail.i 

The court outlined the facts as follows:

“The facts in the record, construed in Webb's favor, are sufficient to find that Dr. Herscher ordered Graham to call him if Webb's headache worsened or recurred after treatment. Having received this order, Graham failed to follow it on December 16, 2000, after Webb had received all three of her regularly scheduled doses of Motrin and continued to complain of the same headache she had been experiencing for nearly a week. Instead of calling Dr. Herscher at that point, Graham dispensed two unprescribed Tylenol to Webb and returned to his post in the jail. Webb introduced additional evidence that, if assumed to be correct, would allow the jury to conclude that Graham knew, prior to dispensing the Tylenol and failing to call Dr. Herscher, that Webb's family had a history of cerebral aneurysm.

The law in this circuit is clearly established that "a prison official acts with deliberate indifference when he ignores the instructions of the prisoner's treating physician or surgeon." Wakefield v. Thompson, 177 F.3d 1160, 1165 (9th Cir. 1999); see also Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1131-32 (9th Cir. 2000) (determining evidence of deliberate indifference was sufficient to overcome summary judgment where prison officials disregarded hospital orders by feeding a prisoner a blended, instead of a liquid, diet and examining him at the prison clinic instead of returning him to the hospital for weekly follow-up appointments). A reasonable emergency medical technician working at a jail, such as Graham, would not have believed that he could ignore a doctor's standing order, especially when that order regarded a detainee with a family history of cerebral aneurysm. See Ford v. Ramirez-Palmer (In re Estate of Ford), 301 F.3d 1043, 1050 (9th Cir. 2002). A reasonable jury could find that Graham acted with deliberate indifference when he gave Webb an additional over-the-counter pain medication instead of calling Dr. Herscher, as Dr. Herscher had ordered him to do.”

CITATIONS:

i Webb v. Douglas County, 224 Fed. Appx. 647 (9th Cir. 2007). 

 
       
 


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