In a recent North Carolina injury decision, the defendant doctors appealed the lower court’s denial of their motions to dismiss based on grounds of public official immunity. The plaintiff started his case against the defendants in their individual capacities and also claimed that the doctors (both employed by the Department of Public Safety) were negligent.
The claims alleged the doctors hadn’t met the professional standard of care for doctors when treating the incarcerated plaintiff. He claimed he started suffering serious back pain in 2012, and he turned in the first of multiple requests for medical care. For 10 months, nurses, the doctor’s assistants, and a doctor repeatedly evaluated him for his back pain. One of the doctors evaluated him nine times and asked for an MRI to be done. A member of the review board, also a doctor, denied the request for an MRI and instead recommended a month of physical therapy. The plaintiff kept submitting requests as he got worse.
Eventually, a doctor’s assistant sent the plaintiff to the ER for treatment. There, imaging showed that the plaintiff’s L3-L4 vertebra had eroded and that he had a spinal infection. The plaintiff claimed that it was medical malpractice for his doctor to fail to treat his condition and for the board member to refuse the requested treatment.