Claimant, an inmate at Five Points Correctional Facility, brought a claim for alleged medical malpractice and negligence of the State in their evaluation and medical care of his condition which he alleges caused him to suffer spinal cord compression and paraplegia.   He alleges the State failed to timely diagnose, refer, and treat his spinal stenosis, and prescribed inappropriate medications all of which deviated from the standard of care and caused his permanent injuries.

Attorneys for the claimant, Franzblau Dratch P.C., argued the State has the duty to provide inmates in its correctional facilities with reasonable and adequate medical care.   Attorneys Stephen Dratch and Brian Dratch asserted physicians have the duty to possess the necessary knowledge and skill, possessed by average practitioners in their field, to use reasonable care and diligence in applying that knowledge and skill and to exercise their best judgment in treating and caring for their patients.  The team at Franzblau Dratch P.C. established liability for medical malpractice. 

After reviewing all of the evidence, the Court found that Claimant and his counsel at Franzblau Dratch P.C. met his burden and established that Defendant's care of Claimant fell below acceptable standards of practice.   Accordingly, the Court found the State of NY is 100 percent responsible for the Claimant's injuries as a result of the failure to promptly refer Claimant for a neurological consultation evaluation and treatment from November 20, 2006.   Based on a projected life expectancy for Claimant of approximately 30 years after his release from prison in 2013, the court awarded Claimant close to 16 million dollars in damages.   Three and a half million dollars was for past and future pain and suffering.   Twelve million dollars was the court’s estimate cost for future medical and life care needs.

“We’re elated,” Claimant’s lawyer, Brian Dratch, said. The New York attorney general’s office said it was “reviewing the decision” but declined to comment further.


Joel Stashenko, New York Law Journal February 18, 2015

An appeals court has upheld a verdict against the state for a prison doctor's failure to recognize the severity of an inmate's spinal condition and make a prompt referral to a neurologist before the prisoner became paralyzed.

The Appellate Division, Fourth Department, said in Black v. State of New York, 14-00317, that the doctor failed to diagnose that Sergio Black was suffering from severe spinal cord stenosis after reviewing an MRI on Nov. 20, 2006. Less than a month later, and without having been seen by a specialist, Black became paralyzed from the chest down after falling in his cell at the Five Points Correctional Facility in Seneca County.

"A fair interpretation of the evidence supports the court's conclusion that [the doctor's] failure to recognize the urgency of that referral and to ensure that decedent received appropriate treatment constituted malpractice," the court said.   Presiding Justice Henry Scudderand Justices Nancy Smith , Erin Peradotto , Edward Carni and Rose Sconiers  joined in the decision.

Court of Claims Judge Diane Fitzpatrick  ruled in March 2012 that the state was 100 percent responsible for Black's paralysis and she awarded Antoinette Black, his wife, $15.7 million, including $1 million for past pain and suffering, $2.5 million for future pain and suffering and $2.3 million for medical care.

Black then petitioned prison officials for compassionate parole release, but the parole board denied the request, saying he showed "no remorse" for his crime. He was released on regular parole on Nov. 1, 2013, and died four days later at age 41, according to the court.

Stephen Dratch, partner in Franzblau Dratch, represented Black.  Assistant Attorney General Robert Goldfarb defended the state.