Alden jail inmate files lawsuit citing negligent care caused undue pain from burning facial rash
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — An inmate at the Erie County Correctional facility in Alden filed a lawsuit Tuesday alleging that the Erie County Sheriff’s Office and its medical staff were negligent in refusing him outside care with a specialist to determine why his face developed a rash with sores and lesions that drooled puss into his eyes.
Raymond Acker had rashes, abrasions, lacerations, incisions, sores, lesions and scars on his nose and face, some of which dripped with puss that leaked into his eyes, causing him great pain. But the medical staff at the Erie County Correctional facility refused to change his medications or send him to an emergency room or specialist to help determine the cause of the breakout, according to his lawsuit filed in Erie County Supreme Court against Erie County, the sheriff’s office and at least a dozen members of the jail’s medical staff with SHC Services, who examined him over the two-month period.
Acker was incarcerated on Sept. 15, 2021, as a pre-trial detainee, when he was provided a topical medication to treat his dermatitis and psoriasis. But his lawsuit states that these medications “were not proper, and their choice of care was an improper course of treatment for him.”
A rash formed on Acker’s face and nose, that began to blister, burn, and itch, the lawsuit states. He began to lose vision as his eyes swelled shut with scabbing. The rashes “were oozing and leaked into his eyes.”
The lawsuit alleges that these injuries were caused by inhouse medical staff giving him the wrong medications and refusing for two months to send him to an emergency room out to a specialist with expertise in the field of dermatitis and psoriasis.
Each day Acker’s condition seemed to get worse, but his requests to see a specialist or be transported to an emergency room kept getting denied or ignored, the lawsuit states. On Sept. 20, 2021, medical staff started Acker on new medications, but they did not appear to help his condition. In fact, his pain worsened, the lawsuit states.
By Sept. 22, 2021, Acker refused to take the medications because he believes they were making his condition worse and causing him more pain. The lawsuit states medical staff gave him Tylenol for the pain, and stressed the importance of his medication and continued to refuse to transport him to outside care.
The lawsuit states that medical staff told Acker to keep his hands off his face, avoid using hot water on his face and stay hydrated.
By Oct. 3, 2021, Acker thought that he had an infection in his eyes from the puss.
“He stated how long does he have to wait to live in the pain he’s been in,” the lawsuit states. “He complained that he had an infection in his eyes and that the delay in care was getting ridiculous.”
On Oct. 5, 2021, Acker’s condition had not improved and he asked when he would be seen by a dermatologist. He also requested new medication, which was ordered from an outside clinic.
Finally, on Oct. 6, 2021, medical staff made an appointment with WNY Dermatology, but they could not get him in to see a specialist until Nov. 16, 2021.
“This delay in a higher level of care created a risk of permanent injury and caused needless pain and injuries, the lawsuit states.
On Nov. 16, 2021, the specialist noted that Acker had a rash on his nose, blistering. His face was burning and he was in pain. He was diagnosed with irritant contact dermatitis, steroid-induced rosacea, inflammation, and erythema, with chemical burns. The specialist ordered him to discontinue all topical medications and ordered a new treatment of care.
The lawsuit alleges that the county, sheriff’s office and medical staff were negligent by failing to provide Acker with proper medical care and that they violated his civil rights.
Acker’s lawsuit also alleges that county officials knew of a problem with medical care in the jails managed by the sheriff’s office, but failed to take any corrective measures.
Indeed, several other lawsuits have been filed with similar allegations.
On Sept. 14, 2021, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of Jennifer Flannery, who died from a ruptured ulcer allegedly caused by the negligence of the defendants.
In 2016, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of India Cummings, who died at a hospital after her health declined while an inmate in the holding center. In June 2018, the state Commission of Correction released a report that concluded her death was caused by a massive pulmonary embolism resulting from acute renal failure, rhabdomyolysis, dehydration, and fracture of the humerus and that the medical care she received while an inmate was “so grossly incompetent and inadequate as to shock the conscience.” Her death was classified as a homicide due to medical neglect.
James Busch alleged in a federal lawsuit that while an inmate in 2019, there was a Hepatitis A outbreak at both the holding center and the jail in Alden. When Busch complained of symptoms linked to Hepatitis A in October 2019, medical staff told him to stay hydrated and gave him Tylenol. His conditions worsened but his request to be sent to an emergency room was denied by medical staff. When Busch was finally taken to a hospital, he was diagnosed with Hepatitis A and remained under direct medical care for more than a week. He alleged that he unknowingly contracted the virus from objects, food, or drinks contaminated with stool from someone already infected.
At least 32 inmates have died under the care of former Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard.
In June, Scott Riordan became the first inmate known to have died since new sheriff John Garcia succeeded Howard over six months ago.