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PLN article mentioned re Louisiana prisoner's lawsuit

Louisiana Record, March 3, 2017.

Appeals panel upholds summary judgment for doctor in prisoner suit

Sam Knef Mar. 3, 2017, 10:30pm

NEW ORLEANS — The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that a doctor treating a prisoner at the maximum security Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola was not deliberately indifferent in treating his pain. 

In a per curiam order issued on Feb. 8, the panel upheld a finding from the Middle District of Louisiana, which granted summary judgment to physician Dr. Paul Toce.

Chief Judge Carl Stewart, and Judges Edith Clement and Leslie Southwick issued the ruling.

The prison where Poullard is housed is the largest maximum security prison in the U.S. Poullard was sentenced to 50 years in prison in 1987 for attempted second-degree murder, according to an article in Capital City Press.

The 5th Circuit ruling states that Poullard claimed Toce violated the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which provides legal protection to prisoners who claim to have suffered from deliberate indifference to serious medical needs.

Poullard specifically claimed that Toce was indifferent to his serious medical needs in prescribing Tegretol for pain associated with Bell’s Palsy without monitoring Poullard for liver or bone marrow problems.

The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Toce based on his qualified immunity, according to the order.

Poullard had the burden of rebutting Toce’s qualified immunity defense, showing that Toce violated “clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known,” the appeals judges wrote. 

According to the order, to prove his claim, Poullard would have had to show that Toce “refused to treat him, ignored his complaints, intentionally treated him incorrectly, or engaged in any similar conduct that would clearly evince a wanton disregard for any serious medical needs."

The 5th Circuit panel wrote that Toce saw Poullard on five occasions, referred him to other specialists and adjusted Poullard’s medication for his pain.

"Moreover, Poullard has not pointed to evidence that he actually suffered liver or bone marrow damage," the order states. "At most, Poullard has shown that he disagreed with the medical treatment provided by Toce, which does not rise to a constitutional violation." 

Ten years ago, Poullard lost another case at the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which reversed a $1.5 million jury award that he won involving a beating, according to an article in Prison Legal News.

Poullard had sued guards Joseph Turner, Lonnie Edmonds, Michael Levatino and Don Thames in federal court after he was allegedly beaten for not dropping a lawsuit. Edmonds also allegedly beat Poullard in the back of a patrol car on the way to the hospital.

According to the article from Capital City Press, the case in which Poullard won the jury award was one of at least 23 he had filed against prison officials since being sentenced. The case against Toce would put the number of suits to at least 24.

In the case against the prison guards, Poullard claimed to have suffered broken ankles that required surgery, among other injuries, all of which caused him to be confined to a wheelchair for two and a half months.

Poullard represented himself at trial and was awarded $750,000 in compensatory damages and $750,000 in punitive damages, according to the Prison Legal News article.

The panel of judges at the 5th Circuit that overturned Poullard's $1.5 million award, however, found that jury instructions left doubt on whether it had been guided correctly in its deliberations.