Former Va. inmate wins over $1 million in injury lawsuit

Updated: Jul. 19, 2019 at 5:23 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Former Virginia inmate John Kinlaw was awarded more than $1 million in damages for claims of medical malpractice and negligence against Armor Correctional Health Services (Armor) whose medical staff failed to properly treat his broken finger while he was in jail.

“There should be no difference in the standard of treatment between an inmate and a regular person,” said Kinlaw. “The people that mistreated me were going to be held responsible."

According to the 42-page complaint, while Kinlaw was an inmate at Lunenburg Correctional Center in 2016, he fractured his hand while playing sports in the recreation yard.

When Kinlaw went to receive treatment, the doctor, contracted by ARMOR Charles Nwaokocha, only gave him an ice pack and Motrin despite X-Rays showing that Kinlaw required immediate stabilization to prevent his hand from healing wrong.

According to the complaint, despite weeks of Kinlaw notifying Dr. Nwaokocha and other nurses that his hand still needed medical attention, the medical staff failed to move forward in having his hand properly stabilized or get him surgery.

The complaint details that Kinlaw informed the Armor medical staff every few days that he could not close his hand and was afraid his fracture was healing the wrong way. The complaint also states Armor - including Nurse Banks, Nurse Price and Nwaokocha - either denied or delayed any additional treatment or imaging for his hand.

In one meeting a month a and a half following his fracture, Kinlaw demonstrated to Nwaokocha that his ring finger could not bend, and in response, Nwaokocha is quoted as saying he needed “more healing.”

The complaint goes on to say that Kinlaw waited more 100 days before he was finally taken to an orthopedic specialist, who confirmed that John’s hand healed wrong and that it could only be fixed by surgery if it at all

“There are a lot of things I’ll never be able to do again,” said Kinlaw. “According to the testimony, I possibly have to get the amputation that my orthopedists have said I may have a chance to get back all of my dexterity.”

In 2017, Kinlaw contacted Nexus Services Inc, which funds medical malpractice prison cases, and they agreed to see his case.

“What we do is we take cases involving complaints about government agencies police, prisons and jails and evaluate them and refer them to a law firm to prosecute them, so we’ve been working with john now for a couple of years now,” said Nexus CEO and president Mike Donovan. “It’s very clear that they just didn’t want to spend money and perhaps that’s the ultimate irony because now they are going to have to pay over a million dollars to Mr. Kinlaw.”

Kinlaw was awarded a total settlement of $1,058,761, with $700,000 of that amount in compensatory damage and over $300,000 in punitive damages

“The prison system the Virginia Department of Corrections, Armor Services and this doctor deserve to have to pay it because sometimes you have to make it more expensive to do the wrong thing,” said Donovan.

“A Jury of my peers confirmed that in fact that I had been mistreated while I had been incarcerated,” said Kinlaw.

But the lawyers with Sands Anderson, the firm representing Dr. Nwaokocha and Armor, say the jury’s verdict was a product of a misunderstanding of the medical facts.

Sands Andersons attorney Edward McNelis III said Kinlaw sustained a serious injury that was not amenable to surgical intervention when he hurt his hand in an incident in the correctional facility’s exercise area.

McNelis added that the care Kinlaw received was completely appropriate and consistent with the care that he would have received if he was not an inmate in the Virginia Department of corrections.

McNelis believes that the care Mr. Kinlaw received was entirely appropriate and consistent with exactly what anyone would receive from their own doctor.

“One of the nation’s top hand surgery experts testified on behalf of the defendant doctor,” said McNelis. “The x-ray that was performed for the inmate did not reveal anything other than a small finger fracture.”

But Donavan says there are hundreds of inmates just like Kinlaw.

Nexus currently has 50 medical malpractice prison cases under consideration with approximately 400 additional requests for help from current or former Virginia inmates.

“My plan is to get with the department of corrections, get with inmates who have been abused and file those suits,” said Donovan.

According to the Department of justice only five percent of medical malpractice cases go to trial with 85% of those resolved in favor of the physician.

Kinlaw said he is making goals to become an aviation mechanic, but he that he he might have to put those plans on hold depending on the amount of treatment his finger will need in the future.

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