Former inmate wins appeal of medical malpractice lawsuit against state

Former inmate wins appeal of medical malpractice lawsuit against state

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A former Halawa prison inmate stands to win nearly $1 million after an appeals court upheld his medical malpractice lawsuit against the state.

The state Intermediate Court of Appeals upheld a circuit court judge's award of $983,000 in damages to Gregory Slingluff.

Slingluff was incarcerated on a drug charge at Halawa Correctional Facility in 2003 when he developed a painful infection in his scrotum. That led to a civil trial in 2009, in which Slingluff testified that he was in such pain at the time that he threatened to hang himself if he didn't get medical attention.

Judge Victoria Marks found that the doctor at Halawa had given him the wrong antibiotic and the wrong dosage.

"The scrotum is described as grossly swollen, the size of a very large grapefruit," Marks read from her findings in the 2009 trial. "The plaintiff appears pale, appears in severe pain."

Slingluff eventually was taken to the Queen's Medical Center and underwent six operations, but it was too late.

"If he had been transferred to Queen's earlier, he could have avoided the amputation of his scrotal sack," said Marks.

The amputation left Slingluff without the ability to have children.

The state appealed the judge's decision, claiming the prison doctors were immune from liability in the same way certain state employees are protected from lawsuits. The appeals court rejected the argument.

"The Intermediate Court of Appeals says that a prison inmate has the same right as any other citizen of the State of Hawaii not to be injured by a state employee through negligence," said Slingluff's attorney, Richard Turbin.

Turbin said this is the first medical malpractice case involving prison doctors that has reached the appeals court level. According to Turbin, the ruling means that state-employed doctors can be liable for medical mistakes.

"Doctors are going to have to be more careful, as careful as doctors in private practice to provide competent medical services to Hawaii's prisoners," he said.

Slingluff has finished serving his time and is now said to be living on the Big Island.

The state said it is reviewing the appeals court opinion and will consider taking the case to the state Supreme Court.

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