Cases & Deals

High-figure settlement is obtained by paraplegic who developed life-threatening pressure ulcers during his incarceration

Client(s) Black, Michael

Jones Day's Boston office obtained a $275,000 settlement for pro bono client Michael Black, a paraplegic, in a case involving the treatment of pressure ulcers on his buttocks. Pressure ulcers are lesions caused by unrelieved pressure to any part of the body. They are classified in stages, ranging from Stage I (the least serious, indicated by nonblanchable redness that does not subside after pressure is relieved) to Stage IV (the most serious, indicated by a deep cavern in skin tissue that extends into the muscle, tendon or bone). Although pressure ulcers are treatable if found early, if left untreated or if treated improperly they can cause sepsis, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and even death. Paraplegics who depend on wheelchairs for mobility, like Mr. Black, are particularly susceptible to pressure ulcers on their buttocks.

Mr. Black's 2011 complaint asserted a medical malpractice claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act. Mr. Black alleged that he developed multiple Stage IV pressure ulcers during his incarceration at FMC Devens, a federal penitentiary in Massachusetts. Despite Mr. Black's repeated pleas for bed rest, prison doctors failed to order bed rest or other medically necessary treatments for his pressure ulcers. Thereafter his pressure ulcers became infected and nearly cost him his life. Mr. Black's case resulted in extensive motion practice as well as fact and expert discovery, including multiple depositions of prison doctors and other staff. In June, the parties participated in mediation before a U.S. Magistrate Judge in Boston, although no settlement was reached at that time. The parties continued to negotiate for several weeks while preparing for a bench trial in August. The case ultimately settled on the eve of trial.