Thanks to key work from The Champion Firm, the State of Georgia is paying $1.5 million to the parents of Mollianne Fischer for alleged substandard medical care while Mollianne was in custody at Arrendale State Prison and Pulaski State Prison.
In 2014, Mollianne was incarcerated for a probation violation on a previous nonviolent offense. Due to negligence on the parts of several medical providers employed by the prisons, she fell into a coma, suffered a pulmonary embolism, and is now in a persistent vegetative state. Her parents were forced to sue the state for compensation to help care for Mollianne, as she will never be able to care for herself again.
Darl Champion, the Founding Partner of The Champion Firm, joined this case as co-counsel along with two other law firms. Darl played a key role in drafting the lawsuit, which included state law claims for medical malpractice and federal law claims for constitutional violations arising out of a deliberate indifference to Mollianne’s serious medical needs. After the lawsuit was filed, the State filed a motion to dismiss the federal claims related to the constitutional violations. Darl prepared the response to the State’s motion to dismiss, which resulted in the federal court denying the State’s motion and allowing the federal claims to proceed.
What Happened? Video Evidence and Building a Medical Malpractice Case Against the State of Georgia
“She’s feigning an illness.”
That’s what one correctional officer said during a disturbing video from 2014, obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The video depicts guards forcibly moving an unresponsive Mollianne Fischer, who clearly seems to be in need of medical attention.
The two-minute video shows guards cuffing Fischer’s hands behind her back and yelling at her to stand up. When she cannot stand, they roughly pull her to her feet, but she cannot stay upright. Fischer then collapses, and the guards drag her and put her face down on a cart to move her.
As if the video itself was not shocking enough, two days later, Fischer was found, once again unresponsive, lying in her own feces. She was then admitted to a hospital, where she was treated for pancreatitis, pneumonia, renal failure, and sepsis – and where she spent seven days in a coma.
Today, four years later, Mollianne’s mother says that Mollianne is essentially a six-month-old. She is in a persistent vegetative state and has no speech capabilities. She must wear a diaper that must be changed regularly, and she survives on baby formula, fed to her through a feeding tube.
Darl Champion said, “It’s clear that something went wrong with Mollianne’s care. She walked into prison, but she was wheeled out in a vegetative state.”
Negligence: A Prison Physician with a Problematic Past
While incarcerated at Pulaski State Prison in 2014, Mollianne was under the care of Dr. Yvon Nazaire. In our lawsuit on behalf of her parents, we alleged that Nazaire missed several key indicators that Mollianne was in need of further medical attention and treatment. We were not alone in these allegations.
Just one year after Mollianne suffered a pulmonary embolism that rendered permanent brain damage and put her in a persistent vegetative state, Nazaire was fired. Why? In the ten years that he had been employed with the prison, “nine women had died under questionable circumstances,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Worse yet, in deposition testimony for another case this year, former medical director Dr. Edward Bailey made a shocking statement. When hiring Dr. Nazaire, Dr. Bailey had not read the medical board’s full report. That report included a public record of neglecting ER patients. In fact, that record showed that Nazaire had been involved in four different malpractice death claims in his time working in New York.
Furthermore, in his testimony, Dr. Nazaire admits that he was aware of Mollianne’s deteriorating condition. “Yes, she was at high risk [for pulmonary embolism],” he said, “but that doesn’t mean you’re going to put everyone with high risk on prophylaxis.” This assessment is particularly telling when we look at Nazaire’s history. Two of the four malpractice death suits from his past included allegations of failure to properly diagnose pulmonary embolism symptoms.
Multiple Parties Neglected Mollianne’s Deteriorating Condition
Nazaire was not the only negligent party in this case, though. Guards and other medical professionals had access to Mollianne as her health was degrading, and were in charge of her care and safety.
Angela Fischer, Mollianne’s mother, told the AJC, “There were so many signs (of trouble) … They missed the boat every step of the way.” Instead of giving Mollianne medical care at the time that the video was taken, the guards rushed her and handled her roughly. On camera, as she pleads, “Give me a minute,” one guard says, “We don’t got a minute.” After she collapses, a guard can be heard saying, “Put her on the cart and drag her up there.”
The Outcome: A Special Needs Trust for Mollianne’s Care
With the State of Georgia offering the highest settlement in a Georgia prison case in the last decade, our firm and co-counsel agreed to settle after consultation with the client.
“When it comes down to it, nothing can return their daughter to the way she was before,” Darl Champion said, “But this settlement will hopefully ease the Fischers’ burden and help them give Mollianne the best care possible for the rest of her life.”
Representing Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Clients in Need
This is not the only time that The Champion Firm has fought for the family of an inmate in Georgia. In 2014, Wanda Turner’s son was arrested in Cherokee County. Three days later, before Wanda was even aware that he’d been arrested, he was dead. You can hear her tell her heartbreaking story and how she found warmth, support, and help with us here.
At The Champion Firm, we are passionate about helping people like the Fischers and Wanda. No parent should ever have to go through trauma like this due to someone else’s negligence. If you have questions about a personal injury or wrongful death case, please don’t hesitate to contact us today. We will gladly answer all your questions and help you understand your options. Call us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.