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Jail screener is not "providing medical care or treatment"

Under Michigan law, jail and prison employees owe minimal levels of care to prisoners, normally.  The employees of government are responsible for injuries they cause only if they are found to have acted with "gross negligence"; this standard is relaxed to the customary threshold of ordinary negligence or "due care" if the actor is providing medical care or treatment in a state institution.  Under federal law, the standard of culpability for an employee supervising inmates and prisoners is "deliberate indifference" to the inmate's medical needs. 

In Perez v. Oakland County, the Court of Appeals held that the screening caseworker who assessed the decedent's mental health was not "providing medical care" to the prisoner, and therefore could not be responsible for his death under the "ordinary negligence" standard. 

This particular panel of the Court clearly did not like that the "ordinary meaning" of the statute making state actors responsible for ordinary negligence in providing medical care applied that standard to prisons and jails as well as medical facilities.  To satisfy its own distaste for the nature of the Perez claim, apparently, it resorted to a legal strategem that appears to be emanate from the novel Catch-22Because the screener did not recommend medical care, and because the County relies upon the Easter Seals organization to provide psychiatric care to inmates, neither the screener nor the County provided medical care to Perez, and therefore they were not responsible for his failure to receive proper medical care. 

Only the best loop-hole lawyer could come up with such an argument:  if you are responsible for someone's medical care, simply assign an amateur screener to deny the need for it, and you immunize yourself--and the screener--from liability and responsibility.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
Fax: 231-929-7262