Prisoner who claims to have accidentally drunk human blood has Pennsylvania court revived lawsuit

A state prison inmate who claims to have accidentally drunk human blood in the prison cafeteria has had his trial for the incident at least temporarily re-launched by a state appeals court.

The problem, Judge Mary P. Murray wrote in the Superior Court Opinion, is that it’s hard to say why Sean Burke’s lawsuit was dismissed in the first place.

Burke, who is serving a sentence for a 1990 murder in Philadelphia, claims he was exposed to blood after another prisoner who worked in the kitchen at Rockview State Prison cut himself on a chipped mug .

The other inmate’s blood-contaminated cups and serving trays used by himself and other inmates, Burke argued in the lawsuit he filed in Center County Court. He filed this product liability claim against the manufacturer of the chipped cup.

Burke, 52, claims his unintentional exposure to the blood of the other prisoner caused him “psychological injury and emotional damage.” He appealed to Murray court after County Judge Jonathan D. Grine dismissed his complaint in a three-page order.

The reason for the dismissal is too vague to stand, Murray said. “At no point does (Grine) explain why (he) dismissed the complaint,” Murray wrote. “We stress that it is not for this tribunal to guess why the trial court granted preliminary objections.”

She therefore overturned the dismissal and referred the matter back to Grine for further clarification.

Murray, however, agreed with the county judge’s denial of Burke’s request for a review of the medical records of the prisoner who cut himself off. She concluded that such a test was not necessary since Burke tested negative for communicable diseases after the blood incident.

“The individual (who cut himself) has a strong right to privacy in his records, and (Grine) has not abused (his) discretion by refusing to violate that right,” Murray wrote.

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