Banderas v. United States
This was a Federal Tort Claims Act and civil rights suit on behalf of Martin Hernandez Banderas, a former federal immigration detainee who received such grossly inadequate medical care for a diabetic foot wound that doctors recommended amputating his right leg to save his life.
While at the San Diego Correctional Facility in 2006, Banderas slipped on a bathroom floor and suffered a small cut on his ankle. Within a week, his foot began to hurt and swell significantly, but his repeated requests for medical assistance were ignored. When he was finally seen at the facilities medical clinic, Banderas’s foot was numb and severely infected. Blood work revealed that Banderas was diabetic, but rather than sending him to a specialist, the medical staff provided a treatment that failed to control the spread of infection, his pain or his insulin levels, and sent him back to his cell.
By the time he was eventually sent to a hospital — two months after the initial injury — Banderas had developed gangrene in his right leg. He opted for a series of surgeries rather than amputation.
After trial in May 2012, a federal court in California held the U.S. government liable for failing to give Banderas adequate medical care. The court awarded Banderas $250,000 in damages — the maximum for certain medical negligence claims in California. California caps non-economic damages in medical negligence claims at $250,000 under the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act. The court noted that Banderas’s pain and suffering, and the damage done to his leg, “warrant an award substantially over the MICRA limits.” The court was nonetheless constrained by the law’s damages cap.
The United States did not appeal and the judgment is final.
Lead counsel was Public Justice board member Conal Doyle of Los Angeles. Public Justice’s Adele Kimmel was co-counsel.