Cases & Deals

Settlement reached in Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment case against California prison doctor

Clients Stocker, Johnie L.

This case involved a state prisoner, Jones Day client and plaintiff Johnie L. Stocker, whose left ring finger was dislocated while playing basketball. The finger was not promptly reset or treated, and subsequent surgeries were unable to correct the damage from the initial delay. Mr. Stocker now lives with a severely deformed finger and has lost full use of his left hand. He continues to experience pain from the injury.

In April 2009, Yolanda Orozco, Angelina Chew, and Kara Backus of the Jones Day Los Angeles office defeated defendants' summary judgment motion as to one defendant, Dr. Jonathan Akanno. Akanno was the primary care physician at the prison clinic who failed from the start to properly treat Mr. Stocker.

In July 2009, the team attended a status conference with Magistrate Judge Beck, whereupon he set dates for a settlement conference, expert discovery, the pre-trial settlement conference, and trial (before Eastern District Court Judge O'Neill). Yolanda, Angelina, and Kara felt they had a good case, that Dr. Akanno had acted with deliberate indifference to Mr. Stocker's medical needs—the standard for an Eight Amendment claim for cruel and unusual punishment—on more than one occasion.

On December 9, 2009, a settlement agreement was reached with the State during a court-led settlement conference with Magistrate Judge Beck in the Eastern District of California. Although the agreement is not completely finalized, Mr. Stocker has signed the settlement offer.

Mr. Stocker will receive $16,100, which covers his outstanding restitution obligations. In addition, he will be refunded the difference between the attorneys fees and costs awarded to Jones Day and Jones Day's actual costs. The refund will total approximately $4,000. The State appeared reluctant to offer Mr. Stocker more than the $16,100, although they were aware of the amount of Jones Day's costs and its intention to refund him the remainder of the award. Judge Beck indicated that the Department of Corrections was hesitant to set precedent with a $20,000 award.

Unfortunately, the litigation team only learned of the extent of Mr. Stocker's restitution obligations about a week before the settlement, so although he will now be free of that obligation, they were somewhat disappointed that he will not have a bigger portion of the award at his disposal upon his release.

Stocker v. Hedgpeth et al., Case No. 1:07-cv-00589-LJO-DLB (E.D. Cal.)

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