$600K settlement reached after man killed in prison

By: renee.sexton Renee Sexton December 16, 2019

The family of a South Carolina prison inmate who was killed by another inmate has received $600,000 and a public apology from the South Carolina Department of Corrections after the two sides reached a settlement agreement shortly before they were set to present closing arguments to a Marlboro County jury in a wrongful death trial.

James Moore III and Scott Evans of the Evans Moore Law Firm in Georgetown and Douglas Jennings Jr. and Mason King of the Douglas Jennings Law Firm in Bennettsville report that Oliver Johnson was serving a 10-year sentence at Evans Correctional Institution in Marlboro County when he was beaten and stabbed 23 times by another inmate in 2016 and died.

james b moorescott evans

Johnson’s adoptive father, George Johnson, sued the South Carolina Department of Corrections for his son’s wrongful death. He contended that no SCDC employee intervened or attempted to stop the attack, and at the time of the attack SCDC rules required at least two certified correctional officers within the prison housing unit at all times.

During the three-day trial, inmates and guards who were working at Evans on the day of the attack testified that the incident lasted as long as 15 minutes. Johnson also presented evidence that the incident would have occurred in plain view of the correctional officer in the central control room overlooking four wings of the housing unit, but at the time of the attack there was no officer in the housing unit. (SCDC regulations prevented the corrections officer in the control room from leaving it under any circumstances.)

The suit was filed under the South Carolina Tort Claims Act, alleging that the SCDC was grossly negligent in failing to properly supervise, monitor, and staff the prison. The $600,000 that the SCDC agreed to pay is the statutory cap on damages under the SCTCA. The major of security for Evans also provided an apology on the court record and an assurance from SCDC that the department is addressing staffing issues and inmate protection at the prison.

“You can learn a lot about the civilization of a society by the way it treats its prisoners,” Moore said. “It is something that should separate us here in America from those societies that have no human rights, no protections from a constitution, no legal system like ours. We have got to do better in South Carolina. My experience working as a lawyer who handles civil rights cases is that inmates are dying from a lack of basic medical care and a lack of security.”

The attorneys said SCDC has a responsibility to maintain the Constitutional rights of inmates, meet their basic human needs, and keep them safe.

“By pursuing justice in this case, the plaintiff has hopefully made the SCDC more cognizant of safety issues in our prison system and has at least made Evans CI a safer place for staff and inmates,” Jennings said.

The case was tried before Judge Roger Henderson. The defense attorneys’ names are withheld as part of the settlement agreement.

“This was a resolution at trial of a disputed claim. The institution has since made changes to address safety and security concerns arising from this incident,” a statement from SCDC said.

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SETTLEMENT REPORT — WRONGFUL DEATH

  • Amount: $600,000 and public apology
  • Injuries alleged: Death
  • Case name: Estate of Oliver Johnson v. South Carolina Department of Corrections
  • Court: Marlboro County Circuit Court
  • Case No.: 2016-CP-34-00019
  • Judge: Roger Henderson
  • Date of settlement: Oct. 3
  • Most helpful experts: James Aiken of Asheville, North Carolina (prison security expert)
  • Insurance carrier: South Carolina Insurance Reserve Fund
  • Attorneys for plaintiff: James B. Moore III and Scott C. Evans

Testimonials

Marnie H.

My attorney James Moore goes the extra mile for clients and I highly recommend Mr Moore. He is always available for his clients.

Allison

Honest and dedicated.

Alina

Amazing attorneys who will work very hard to make sure justice is served and that everything runs as smoothly as possible.

David

I recently retained Mr. James Moore to represent me in an accident involving a trucking company. He settled the case in a timely and professional manner, and i couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome. I would recommend him and the firm, with the highest regards, to anyone needing legal representation.

Amy

God Bless James Moore & Scott Evans for the work they do – fighting for those that cannot speak for themselves, those that are pushed aside and thrown away, those that do not have a voice, those that are true victims.

Hailey

James and Scott’s personal attention and responsiveness are attributes that made them really stand out. Their preparedness and dedication to a favorable outcome was exceptional. They are both genuinely good people who care for the well-being of their clients.

Cliff

Professional while also being engaging. Walked family through tough experience and was knowledgeable calming voice. Very glad we hired.

Jenn (on behalf of her father)

After suffering a tragic loss, I went to several law firms looking for someone to help with some sort of settlement from the family of the person who caused the loss. After having the door shut in my face, countless times I met with James and Scott, who agreed to take the case to see what he could do. Each time , throughout the process I called the office, no matter who I spoke to or why I called, everyone made me feel like a valued client. I am grateful for the Evans Moore law firm and will recommend them to anyone who would find their representation useful.

Cheryl

Scott Evans handled cases for my daughter and me in the last few years with great results. He is professional, knowledgeable, caring and provides comfort for his clients during their hard times. Office staff at Evans Moore is terrific, always helpful when I called and a great asset to the firm. Should i need legal help in the future I will call Evans Moore.

Drew

I retained James Moore of Evans Moore Law firm in regards to traffic accident in which I was involved. The expert advice, legal support and personal attention Mr. Moore provided during a stressful time and unfavorable situation was unparalleled. Not only was the issue resolved swiftly, but Mr. Moore went out of his way to keep me updated on all matters during the process. The next time I’ll need to call ‘my lawyer,’ as they say, I’ll know exactly who to call. Thanks again to Mr. Moore and the entire Evans Moore Law Firm for your support!