Summary Judgment Obtained in Case Seeking $2M from Oral Surgeon

On November 7, 2019, a team led by SST's Jaclyn Kostich secured summary judgment in favor of a surgeon in a civil rights (U.S.C. 42 U.S.C. § 1983) lawsuit.
The plaintiff-inmate alleged that the defendant-surgeon violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights and was deliberately indifferent to the plaintiff’s serious medical needs when the surgeon treated him for a hemangioma (benign growth) and failed to diagnose his invasive squamous cell carcinoma, which resulted in the plaintiff undergoing a total maxillectomy (surgical resection of the entire upper jaw, nose and eye socket). More specifically, the plaintiff alleged that the surgeon was deliberately indifferent to the plaintiff’s medical needs by failing to provide him with an interpreter.
The defendant-surgeon moved for summary judgment, arguing that the undisputed facts established that he properly treated the plaintiff for the hemangioma, the only condition from which the plaintiff suffered at the time the surgeon treated him. Moreover, the plaintiff’s invasive squamous cell carcinoma was entirely unrelated to the hemangioma and did not develop until several months after he last saw the surgeon. The defendant also argued that he was able to effectively communicate with and treat plaintiff and that failure to provide plaintiff with an interpreter did not amount to deliberate indifference.
Magistrate Judge Mark A. Beatty for the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Illinois issued an opinion, granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant-surgeon, finding the plaintiff’s “language barrier” argument “unavailing” and determining that “[i]t is unclear how a translator could have helped Plaintiff anymore because Defendant properly diagnosed Plaintiff’s condition based on the physical findings.” The Court further held that “no reasonable jury could find Defendant ignored Plaintiff’s symptoms in such a manner that it demonstrated a departure from accepted medical professional standards[.]”

​For additional information, please contact Jaclyn Kostich or Anna Gonis O'Connor.