On January 26, 2015, Rudolph Richardson sued the city of New York, prison healthcare contractor Corizon Health Services and Dr. Landis Barnes for allegedly delaying and denying him emergency medical care following an incident in which his cell door slammed shut on his fingers.
According to the complaint filed in the District Court of the Southern District of New York, Richardson was hanging out in a common room at the Manhattan Detention Complex (MDC) in June, 2014 when he asked a guard if he could return to his cell to use the bathroom. The guard approved, and another officer in charge of operating the mechanical door to his cell allowed Richardson to enter.
The toilet was positioned next to Richardson’s cell door, and while he was using the bathroom, the lawsuit states that the guard “suddenly and negligently closed the door to Mr. Richardson’s cell, causing the fingers of Mr. Richardson’s hand to get caught in said door.”
Richardson’s hand was crushed. One of his fingers was cut off. He went into shock and was bleeding profusely. The complaint states that he ran back to the common room for help. There was supposed to be a guard posted there, but the station was empty. After noticing he was severely injured and in distress, some of the inmates in the room tried to help Richardson find a guard. They eventually reached an officer at another station, who then tried to contact the clinic. Richardson allegedly waited for more than 10 minutes before someone showed up to escort him.
Once he got to the clinic, he was brought before a doctor working for Corizon Health Services. Dr. Landis Barnes allegedly took a quick look at Richardson’s hand and told him the finger could not be saved. According to the complaint, Dr. Barnes then instructed Richardson to throw his detached finger in the garbage.
Richardson refused, begging Barnes to give him ice or a solution to preserve the finger. Dr. Barnes “reluctantly fulfilled his request.” Richardson says Dr. Barnes did such a poor job of wrapping his hand that he had to ask him to do it again in order to stop the bleeding. But Dr. Barnes allegedly refused.
At this point, Richardson was so appalled by his treatment that he asked to file an incident report. He claims that the guard on duty told him that he had made bail at that same moment, and that if he filed the report they would not release him. Richardson demanded to fill out the report anyway.
With the clock ticking on re-attaching his finger, Richardson quickly filled out the form. But guards took a long time to let him out of the room. When they eventually did, they handcuffed his bloody hand and took him to Bellvue Hospital, where he underwent surgery to reattach his fingers and treat his broken bones. His wounds were infected. The lawsuit states that Richardson now requires intensive physical therapy, and it is unclear if he will ever regain full use of his hand.
This incident, which took place last year around the same time that complaints about medical service and officer brutality in NYC jails reached a fever pitch, is but one snowflake in a blizzard of allegations against Corizon Health Services. Yet, the city has made few if any indications that their contract could be in jeopardy.