7th Circ. Nixes Ill. Prison Doc’s Medical Battery Claims Win
By Hannah Meisel
May 1, 2017


Psychiatrist Abdi Tinwalla

The Seventh Circuit on Friday nixed a quick win to a psychiatrist in an Illinois detention facility accused of allegedly causing an inmate to take the antipsychotic drug Risperdal for more than a month without the man’s knowledge or consent.

A three-judge panel found that a reasonable jury could conclude that Dr. Abdi Tinwalla had been deliberately indifferent to the plaintiff’s right to refuse and had committed a common law tort of medical battery when he wrote a Risperdal prescription for inmate Terry Johnson even after Johnson had rescinded his permission and signature to be on the drug…

Tinwalla prescribed Risperdal for Johnson after Johnson had allegedly complained of irritability, mentioned wanting to assault a prison staff member and expressed feelings of hopelessness. According to court documents, Johnson had initially signed the form consenting to being treated with the drug, but then immediately revoked his consent and scratched out his signature.

Though Tinwalla had written that Johnson “refused consent after signing” the form itself, the doctor apparently turned around and wrote a prescription anyway, explaining in a later affidavit that he had written the prescription just in case Johnson changed his mind and wanted to take the drug if he felt the need to.

But Tinwalla did not tell Johnson about the prescription, and when a new pill showed up in the inmate’s daily medicine cup, which already included tablets for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and stomach ailments, Johnson began taking Risperdal without knowing it and without having given his consent, he said. Judge Posner said the responsibility for noticing a new medication should not have fallen on Johnson.

…It affected Johnson’s body in a way that could be construed at medical battery, as it resulted “in offensive contact with the plaintiff’s body,” Judge Posner wrote, quoting from the definition of medical battery.

Johnson’s attorney, Justin Ellis of MoloLamken LLP, told Law360 on Monday that Johnson will have his day in court, as the case was remanded to the district court.

“We are delighted that the court of appeals recognized Mr. Johnson’s fundamental rights under federal and Illinois law to refuse unwanted antipsychotic medication,” Ellis said in an email. “We look forward to vindicating those rights at trial.”

Abdi Tinwalla