A federal judge has ruled that a lawsuit filed by a woman who broke her wrist during a car accident and was later arrested can sue the city for the permanent disfigurement of her wrist due to an alleged lack of appropriate medical care.
U.S. District Judge Gerald A. McHugh of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania denied the city of Philadelphia and Dr. Jonathan Cohen’s motions for dismissal of plaintiff Aimee Davis’ complaint. Davis claimed that she was locked up for six weeks before receiving surgery for her broken wrist, and by that time it had healed incorrectly, despite an initial hospital recommendation that she receive immediate treatment.
McHugh held that Davis provided plausible claims that the city and Cohen violated her 14th Amendment right to due process, arguing that the inadequate medical care was a form of punishment meted out before her innocence or guilt was established. Davis alleged that she was deprived of treatment at Riverside Correctional Facility because the city wanted to save money.
“Plaintiff makes detailed factual allegations supporting her claim that she was deprived of her 14th Amendment right. She alleges that, despite explicit hospital instructions and her own, repeated requests to Riverside staff, she went without urgently needed surgery, endured severe pain, and now has a permanently injured wrist as a result,” McHugh said. “She attributes this to inadequate intake procedures at Riverside that fail to ensure time-sensitive medical information is relayed by transport police to front-line medical staff, and from front-line staff to an appropriate medical staffer with power to act on it. These alleged practices are not rationally related to the city’s otherwise legitimate goal of cost savings, because deprivation of required medical care would be unconstitutionally ‘excessive in relation’ to that goal.”
McHugh also said that Davis’ inadequate intake documentation used by the city, which she alleged led to her shoddy treatment, could amount to an affirmative policy, making the city responsible for a 14th Amendment violation.
Davis also claimed that Cohen ignored her requests to see a specialist and actually delayed her treatment.
“I am not persuaded by Dr. Cohen’s response: that he ‘exercised his medical judgment and treated plaintiff by ordering an X-ray and referring her for an orthopedic evaluation,’” McHugh said. “This fails to address plaintiff’s claim of delay. At their core, her allegations pertain to timeliness—that when Dr. Cohen finally responded to her request for surgery by ordering a consult, it was too late. Regarding the allegedly inaccurate and incomplete transfer summary, Dr. Cohen simply counters that he ‘completed the required summary paperwork.’ To the extent that this raises a factual dispute, I must take plaintiff’s version of the facts as true.”
Davis’ attorney, Sue Ayres of Hill & Associates, did not respond to a request for comment. Jonathan Cooper with the City Law Department’s civil rights unit did not respond to a request for comment. Cohen’s lawyer, Christopher A. Iacono of Pietragallo Gordon Alfano Bosick & Raspanti, did not respond to a request for comment.