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ISAAC v. UNITED STATES

September 13, 1979

ANGEL ISAAC, Plaintiff, against THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and THE UNITED STATES BUREAU OF PRISONS, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: CONNER

OPINION AND ORDER

This action is brought pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2671 et seq., to recover damages for defendant's *fn1" alleged failure to render timely, adequate, and proper medical treatment to plaintiff while he was a prisoner in the care and custody of defendant.

 A bench trial was held on March 19 and 20, 1979. This Opinion and Order constitutes the Court's Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law pursuant to Rule 52(a), F.R.Civ.P.

 Plaintiff, Angel Isaac ("Isaac"), was confined to the Federal House of Detention, 427 West Street, New York, New York (hereafter "West Street"), from February 1974 to September 1975, where he was in the custody of the United States Bureau of Prisons. Sometime between January 31 and February 3, 1975, Isaac became ill. Thereafter, he was admitted to Bellevue Hospital where he received treatment for a condition diagnosed as a Mallory-Weiss tear high on the greater curvature of the stomach. The treatment consisted of lavage, or bathing, of the lining of the stomach with cold saline solution, transfusion of several units of packed blood cells, observance of a restricted diet, and bed rest. Isaac was discharged from Bellevue Hospital on February 10, 1975.

 Plaintiff contends that he became seriously ill in the early morning hours of Saturday, February 1; that West Street prison guards were notified of his condition at that time; but that he did not receive medical assistance until approximately three days later when he was transferred to Bellevue Hospital. He alleges that defendant's failure to provide him with timely medical assistance caused him to endure pain and suffering and to sustain injuries of a permanent nature.

 At trial, plaintiff testified as follows: That on the evening of January 31, 1975, while he was eating dinner, he swallowed some metal scrapings. *fn2" He complained of this to West Street kitchen personnel. Sometime between 2:30 and 3:00 A.M. on Saturday morning, February 1, he awoke feeling "sweaty and dizzy." He complained of his condition to the prison guards who told him that they would try to have someone from the medical department come up to see him.

 Isaac returned to bed and at about 3:30 or 4:00 A.M. that morning he vomited blood. The guards were again summoned and they informed Isaac that the medical staff had been alerted that he was ill and that someone would be coming up to look at him. (Transcript, hereafter "Tr.," at p. 10).

 Later that Saturday morning, at about 6:30 or 7:00 A.M., Isaac was taken to the West Street prison hospital by an inmate. At the prison hospital, he was "looked at" by Mr. Rodriguez, a medical attendant, and he was informed that there was nothing that could be done for him until the doctor arrived. Isaac again vomited blood while at the hospital that morning.

 Isaac returned to his cell to rest. At approximately 6:00 or 7:00 P.M. that evening, he returned to the prison hospital and complained to an attendant that he was bleeding and feeling weak. Isaac testified that he received no medical care on that Saturday or on Sunday, February 2.

 On cross-examination, Isaac was asked to name the prison guards to whom he complained that he was feeling ill on Saturday and Sunday, February 1 and 2. He could recall the name of only one guard, a Mr. Summors ("Summors").

 Isaac testified that on Monday morning, February 3, he was helped to the prison hospital by an inmate. There he was examined by a facility doctor who transferred Isaac to Bellevue Hospital to receive emergency medical care.

 With respect to his contention that he sustained injuries of a permanent nature, Isaac testified that he presently has problems with his stomach that he did not have prior to January 31, 1975. Isaac also stated that he feels he has less energy now than he had prior to January 31; for example, he feels that he is no longer able to participate in sports and other leisure activities to the same extent that he did prior to January 31.

 Plaintiff called Dr. Daniel Present, his treating physician and a specialist in gastrointestinal diseases, as his expert witness. Dr. Present examined Isaac on two occasions, performed a G.I. series on him, and had an endoscopy conducted of Isaac's stomach and esophagus. The examinations and the results of the tests revealed abnormalities in Isaac's upper esophagus and stomach. Dr. Present's diagnosis was that Isaac presently suffers from peptic disease, an ulcer-type disease with gastritis, and he speculated that Isaac might have esophagitis, or inflammation of the esophagus.

 Dr. Present stated that he had reviewed Isaac's Bellevue Hospital records which indicate that Isaac suffered from a Mallory-Weiss tear in 1975. Dr. Present explained that a Mallory-Weiss tear is usually a tear of the lining of the esophagus; that the tear is most often induced by ...


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