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Inmate Was Ordered to Throw Severed Finger in Garbage, Lawsuit Says

 Richardson was in custody at the Manhattan Detention Complex when his finger was severed.
Richardson was in custody at the Manhattan Detention Complex when his finger was severed.
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Canadian Pacific/Flickr

CIVIC CENTER — A Manhattan jail doctor told an inmate to throw part of his severed middle finger in the garbage after a guard cut it off in an electronic door in June, according to court documents.

Rudolph Richardson had to beg the doctor to put the piece of his finger on ice, according to a complaint filed in federal court. He was then locked in a room in the Manhattan Detention Complex after he asked to file an incident report, despite needing immediate medical attention, the complaint says.

The portion of Richardson’s finger was later re-attached at Bellevue Hospital.

Richardson filed a malpractice and civil rights suit against Corizon, the private company that provides health care in New York City jails, and doctor, Landis Barnes, seeking unspecified financial damages on Jan. 26.

“The medical treatment was so grossly incompetent and inadequate that it shocks the conscience and constituted deliberate indifference to Mr. Richardson’s fundamental constitutional rights," the suit says.

The case was first reported on blogging website Firedoglake. 

Corizon denied that their doctor told Richardson to throw out his finger, saying the statement was "inaccurate."

"Corizon Health’s top priority is and always will be providing quality healthcare to our patients," spokesman Andrew Moyer said in a statement. "We believe the appropriate care was provided to this patient."

The case is one of a slew of recent lawsuits against Corizon charging it with providing inadequate medical services, though the city has indemnified them against such cases. Members of the City Council slammed Corizon in a hearing last week and the city's Health Department, which oversees jail health care, said it was looking into options to replace it.

Richardson was in the common area at Manhattan Detention Complex, where he was being held on charges of criminal mischief, on June 4, 2014.  Around 7 p.m., he asked a Department of Correction officer if he could return to his cell to use the bathroom, according to the complaint. 

While he was using the toilet in his cell, which was next to the door, the officer closed the door on Richardson’s left hand, the complaint says, detaching a portion of Richardson’s left middle finger. 

Richardson began bleeding profusely, according to the complaint, and began looking for an officer to take him to the medical clinic, which took more than 10 minutes, according to the complaint.

Barnes, an employee of the city’s jail health contractor, Corizon, briefly looked at Richardson’s hand and told him the finger could not be saved. 

“Incredibly, Dr. Barnes informed Richardson that he should throw the detached portion of his finger in the garbage,” the complaint says.

Richardson refused and asked for ice or a solution to preserve his finger, according to the complaint.

“Dr. Barnes reluctantly fulfilled this request,” the complaint says.

Richardson demanded that his wound be properly wrapped so the bleeding would slow. He then asked to fill out an incident report, and was held in a locked room after he filled it out. 

“Mr. Richardson was obviously in need of immediate and specialized care, so that his finger could be saved,” the complaint says. “Instead, plaintiff was kept inside of a locked room without having received any proper medical treatment, merely because he requested that the incident be properly documented.”

Richardson was later cuffed and taken to Bellevue, where he underwent surgery to reattach his finger. Though persistently infected afterwards, it was re-attached.

Richardson's lawyer Christine Delince did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Dr. Barnes, the Department of Correction, Corizon and the Department of Health did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The city's Law Department declined to comment.