Abu-Jamal v. Kerestes

Plaintiff Mumia Abu-Jamal began experiencing a year-long, escalating health crisis starting in August 2014. Over the course of several months, a skin condition grew in intensity, eventually covering most of his body with a painful, severe rash that was resistant to conventional treatments. The skin condition was abnormal in its duration and intensity, and led to lesions, open wounds, and swelling.

Blood tests provided at the insistence of Abu-Jamal, his lawyers, and consulting doctors confirmed that Abu-Jamal had active hepatitis C, which was likely the underlying cause of his health crisis. Despite undeniable medical evidence that he was in need of treatment for his hepatitis C infection, prison medical staff refused to provide it.

On March 30, 2015, Abu-Jamal was rushed to the hospital from SCI Mahanoy, after losing consciousness and going into diabetic shock. Although prison medical staff were aware that Abu-Jamal had a dangerously high blood glucose level on March 6, they failed to treat, monitor, or even inform Abu-Jamal of his condition.

On legal proceedings suing to secure proper treatment for Abu-Jamal commenced in May 2015. On August 3, 2015, an amended complaint in Abu-Jamal v. Kerestes was filed seeking injunctive relief for prison medical staff’s failure to treat Abu-Jamal’s active hepatitis C. 

On March 11, 2016 attorneys for Abu-Jamal filed their post-hearing brief in support of Abu-Jamal’s motion for a preliminary injunction ordering the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to provide him with treatment for his hepatitis C. The 30-page brief summarized the extensive factual record from the 3-day evidentiary hearing that was held at the end of December 2015, including:

  • Abu-Jamal had a chronic hepatitis C infection that was progressively attacking his liver, causing scarring; a severe, itchy, painful skin rash that had lasted more than 18 months; and anemia. Abu-Jamal also experienced a nearly fatal attack of diabetes in March 2015 that was likely related to his hepatitis C.
  • The head of the DOC’s clinical services, Dr. Paul Noel, revealed that tests conducted by the DOC show that there was a 63% chance that Abu-Jamal had cirrhosis, meaning that the disease had progressed to the point that it was causing irreversible and worsening inflammation and scarring throughout his liver. Despite the extraordinary danger posed by Abu-Jamal’s condition, Noel testified under oath that the DOC would not provide treatment unless a patient has advanced cirrhosis and the presence of esophageal varices, which means that the patient is at risk of bleeding to death.
  • Dr. Noel also revealed on cross examination that DOC counsel had submitted a falsified document in his name in September in 2015 that contained inaccurate and misleading medical information that was then used as the basis for DOC’s argument against plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction.

On January 3, 2017, Federal district court Judge Robert Mariani granted Abu-Jamal’s request for a preliminary injunction, forcing the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) to provide him with direct-acting antiviral (DAA) drugs capable of curing his chronic hepatitis C infection. This was the first such court order in the country that ordered prison officials to provide the new curative hepatitis C medications to an incarcerated patient.

The case eventually settled all other outstanding claims in November 2021.

Case Timeline

05/18/15: Complaint and Motion for Preliminary Injunction and Temporary Restraining Order Filed

08/13/15: Amended Complaint

03/11/16: Defendants' and Plaintiff's Briefs in Opposition and Support of Preliminary Injunctions

03/11/16: Defendants' and Plaintiff's Briefs in Opposition and Support of Preliminary Injunctions Cancel

01/03/17: Preliminary Injunction Granted

01/03/17: Preliminary Injunction Granted Cancel

11/2021: All Oustanding Claims Settled

11/2021: All Oustanding Claims Settled Cancel