John Henricks, a former inmate of the Ohio state prison system, was awarded a $3 million dollar settlement by a jury earlier this week after the state failed to answer his complaint in the appropriate amount of time. Henricks, who initially represented himself when he filed the case, accused Dr. Ida Gonzalez, along with the Pickaway Correctional Institution where he was being held, of failing to provide him with proper pain medication after he underwent an emergency appendectomy in 2006. Further details alleged Dr. Gonzales had initially misdiagnosed Henricks’ condition, eventually causing his appendicitis to reach a critical state, requiring the urgent procedure; his surgery was performed at Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University. He experienced nerve damage and a disfigured abdomen as a result of the surgery, leaving him in severe and unmanageable pain. Despite being prescribed medicine designed to treat nerve pain; specifically, Neurontin, by his attending OSU surgeon, Dr. Gonzales refused to provide the painkiller, prescribing Motrin (ibuprofen) instead. Though the physician at OSU insisted time and again she provide Henricks with the Neurontin, Gonzales refused to comply. She allegedly stated she feared the stronger painkiller would have a detrimental effect on Henricks’ heart. His lawyers were able to prove the Neurontin did not, in fact, have a harmful effect on his heart but rather, the Motrin did. Attorneys Dan Mordarski and John Camillus began representing Henricks in 2011.
The state’s attorney general’s office filed a motion to dismiss the case, which was denied in 2009 by a federal magistrate who gave the state 30 days to file an answer to disprove the allegations. They did not comply with the request, and instead waited until 2013 to respond. U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley presided over the trial, which took place last week, ruling in favor of Henricks because of the state’s failure to respond in a timely manner. The allegations made by Henricks were deemed to be true by the judge, who stated there was sufficient evidence to hold Gonzales legally responsible. At the request of Mordaski and Camillus, Marbley ruled in their favor, leaving the award amount up to the jury in the case. After just three hours of deliberations, the jury, which consisted of seven women and one man, awarded Henricks $3 million in total, which was broken down into “$1 million in actual damages and $2 million in punitive damages.”
There is no word on why the state failed to respond to the lawsuit and the attorney general’s office is staying mum, referring all questions regarding the case and subsequent settlement to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, with department spokeswoman JoEllen Smith stating, “DRC is currently reviewing the decision and will determine appropriate next steps.” Henricks’ lawyers believe it was a matter of the state not taking the lawsuit seriously because the plaintiff planned to represent himself, though they also believe he still would have won in court had the jury been responsible for deciding on the facts of the case if he had.
Permanently disabled, Henricks was released from prison in 2009 after serving time on domestic violence charges, which he denies any involvement in. He claims to have suffered excruciating pain up until his release and is satisfied with the judge and jury’s decision. He currently resides in Fulton County in his hometown of Delta, Ohio.