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.
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.
Follow Renee Sexton on Twitter @BobcatRenee
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
Michael Naqshabandi died as a result of injuries sustained while in the custody of the Horry County Sheriff’s Office on September 24th in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Mr. Naqushabandi is the third mental health patient to die as a result of injuries sustained in a Horry County Sheriff’s transport vehicle in the last 12 months.
The family was informed by the Sherriff’s Office that he had asphyxiated after becoming entangled by a seatbelt while in their protective custody on the morning of September 21st. The tragedy occurred while Mr. Naqshabandi was en route to the Horry County Detention Center after receiving emergency treatment for what has been described as a suicide attempt earlier that day. The family was not notified of the initial injury, and only notified several hours after he had been found unresponsive in the backseat of the Horry County Sheriff’s transport vehicle. The entire incident was captured on the transport van’s video monitoring system, although the family has thus far been denied access to the video.
Mr. Naqshabandi recently moved to the Myrtle Beach area. “Although Michael struggled with mental illness, he was a generous, intelligent, caring, charming soul who loved to tease, make music, laugh, fish, and whose energy would light up faces and rooms with joy. He will be greatly missed by his family and friends… We know that Michael is at peace now and we want to prevent this from happening to other families, to have other loved ones experience this anguish,” said his mother, Lisa Flaherty-Ortega.
“It is a horrible thought to consider that this young man died within feet of the people there to supervise him,” said Michael’s grandfather Richard Flaherty.
According to this family, Michael had enrolled himself as an organ donor; however, these wishes were unable to be fulfilled due to the forensic autopsy ordered by law enforcement, after an initial decision by the coroner’s office to not conduct an autopsy.
Attorney James B. Moore III, one of the attorneys representing the Estate of Michael Naqshabandi stated, “It is incomprehensible that yet another mentally ill patient has died in the back of a Horry County Sheriff’s transport vehicle. Providing basic supervision to those under police custody is a Constitutional right, not a luxury. I trust that Horry County Sheriff’s Department can do better than this.”
Attorney Scott C. Evans added: “We are anxious to find out how this was allowed to happen again. We are hopeful that SLED will be able to conclude its investigation quickly so that Mr. Naqshabandi’s family can begin to have answers to some of their many questions.”
Due to the circumstances of his death, the State Law Enforcement Division has begun an investigation of the Horry County Sheriff’s Office to determine if any criminal liability exists. Given the relationship between the Horry County Sheriff’s Department and the Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor’s Office, the family is requesting that the South Carolina Attorney General investigate SLED’s findings.
At this time the family is respectfully requesting their privacy and has asked that any inquiries be directed to their legal counsel at Evans Moore, LLC.
Evans Moore, LLC held its third Thanksgiving turkey giveaway last Tuesday. The firm donated 175 turkeys to families in need. The firm teamed up with Helping Hands of Georgetown County.
Evans Moore, LLC began this tradition in 2016, after the area was devastated by flooding. That year, Evans Moore, LLC donated 125 turkeys to the community. Since its initial success, the event has grown to give away more turkeys each year. Evans Moore, LLC hopes to be able to continue this momentum and help even more families enjoy a turkey on Thanksgiving next year.
Turkey giveaways like this happen across the country, and Evans Moore, LLC is happy to give back to the community however we can. Click here for more information about our turkey giveaway.
At Evans Moore, LLC, we all too frequently receive a call from a heartbroken family member or friend regarding the death of a loved one within a nursing home or assisted living facility. If someone is denied access to medical care, which includes mental health care, and later dies, the family of the decedent often has grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit. This applies in cases involving suicide deaths as well. One reason being that often times the patient is 100% reliant on medical staff to provide him or her with access to medical care.
Handling a lawsuit against a nursing home or assisted living facility is particularly complex due to the number of rules and regulations that govern these facilities. Your lawyer needs to know what questions to ask and how to locate and gather video surveillance, applicable policies and procedures, medical records, investigatory files, and other evidence. Your lawyer should also have access to qualified nursing home experts and medical experts who can assist you in effectively litigating your case before a judge and jury.
Reasons to Contact a Nursing Home Negligence Attorney
If a loved one or family member dies in a nursing home or assisted living facility, it is crucial that you contact a lawyer immediately who has experience handling this specific type of case. Time is of the essence for a number of reasons:
- Requesting an Independent Autopsy – You have the right to demand that an independent autopsy be conducted. Without a reliable autopsy, it can be very challenging to prove the manner of death.
- Preserving Evidence – Another reason why it is important to contact an experienced, qualified attorney is to help preserve any evidence regarding the circumstances leading to his or her death. You or your lawyer should quickly serve the facility with the appropriate “Do Not Destroy” letter. Many times, the video surveillance, photographs, medical records, and other evidence is destroyed, deleted, or misplaced. If a “Do Not Destroy” letter is properly served, you may have additional rights and advantages in the event the evidence you requested to be saved is destroyed or no longer available.
- Statutory Limits on Filing a Wrongful Death Case – There are statutory limitations on how much time you have to file suit for wrongful death.
Although it is difficult to think about finding a lawyer when someone you love has just died, acting quickly is the only way to ensure that your rights are preserved.
What to Do Before Filing a Wrongful Death Case Against a Nursing Home
Before bringing a wrongful death case, you should consider the following:
- Private or Public Facility?You or your lawyer must determine whether your loved one or relative was in a private, governmental, or charitable facility at the time of his or her death. Filing a lawsuit against a private, for-profit medical provider can have many advantages. For example, private, for-profit companies generally are not afforded with protections and immunities that the government possesses. If the facility is public, your attorney will need to have experience handling lawsuits against governmental facilities. The time period to file a lawsuit can also differ based on whether the facility is private, charitable, or governmental.
- Active Abuse, Misuse of Restraints, Neglect and/or Medical Malpractice? There are several different of misconduct that can lead to death in a nursing home or assisted living facility. Of those, active abuse is the easiest to observe, although may be difficult to detect. Some examples of active physical abuse include pushing, slapping, punching, pinching, and kicking. Although misusing restraints is against federal nursing home regulations, it is still a common type of abuse in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Restraints are only permissible for medical reasons and should only be used for a short and definite period. However, when restraints are used for discipline or convenience they become dangerous to the patient and can even cause death by positional asphyxia or suffocation. Neglect is another type of abuse that is usually not intentional but is instead caused by understaffing and lack of resources at a nursing home. Examples of physical neglect include not providing the necessary food, clothing, and sanitary environment that a patient needs to survive and maintain their dignity. A common cause of death as a result of neglect can be dehydration or sepsis as a result of bed sores or pressure ulcers.
Details of your case will determine what damages are available in a wrongful death lawsuit. Generally, family members may recover actual and compensatory damages, which includes damages for the pain and suffering your loved one endured leading up to his or her death, as well as any damages you have suffered as a result of losing a family member or loved one. Punitive damages can also be recovered under certain circumstances to punish the defendant for its misconduct.
Contact a South Carolina Nursing Home Negligence Law Firm
If your loved one or family member has died as a result of abuse, neglect, or other misconduct at a nursing home or assisted living facility, you have the right to shed light on any injustices he or she suffered. At Evans Moore, LLC, our South Carolina attorneys will work with you to develop a comprehensive legal strategy against the facility responsible for the misconduct that you or a loved one has been made to suffer. Our goal is to hold the responsible party accountable, to ensure that it does not happen again, and to work as hard as we possibly can to fully compensate you for your loss. To speak with one of our attorneys, contact us today at (843) 995-5000 for a free consultation or visit one of our offices, conveniently located in Georgetown and Charleston, South Carolina.
Golf carts are becoming increasingly popular, particularly in Georgetown, downtown Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Myrtle Beach and other communities throughout South Carolina. According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, about 15,000 golf cart-related injuries are serious enough to necessitate an emergency room visit occur in the United States every year. Unfortunately, like motorcycle accidents, when a person or family is involved in a golf cart accident, these accidents often cause catastrophic injuries as golf carts lack safety features available in most automobiles.
In a journal published in The American Surgeon, Dr. Antonio Pepe of Grand Strand Surgical Care in Horry County, South Carolina, reported that 75% of the golf cart-related injuries identified in his study required hospital admission. According to Dr. Pepe “[m]ore importantly, and more dramatically, we’ve seen a lot of head-related injuries… these vary from minor to severe concussions, to severe brain injuries, mild concussion and moderate brain injury, and even severe brain injury.” According to the journal, 13% of the patients injured required admission to the intensive care unit.
Although sometimes these golf cart accidents are truly unpreventable, many are the result of negligence of another person or the driver of the golf cart. In these cases, the person injured in the golf cart accident may be entitled to compensation for the medical bills, pain and suffering, and in some situations, punitive damages. It is important to consult with an experienced South Carolina personal injury lawyer who can explain the process and determine what available insurance coverage exists.
When consulting with an experienced personal injury lawyer to determine whether or not to pursue a case, there are many factors that have to be explored and investigated. It is important to quickly contact an experienced personal injury attorney familiar with golf cart liability as it can be crucial to preserve evidence and start the process of seeking medical treatment. For example, if you are the owner of the golf cart, it may need to be preserved in the appropriate manner to later be inspected by liability experts and engineers. If you are not the owner of the golf cart, it may be appropriate to have an experienced photographer or investigator take photographs of the golf cart that can be used in litigation.
Below is a list of some questions that will need to be discussed when consulting with an attorney:
When and where did the golf cart accident occur?
In South Carolina, you can only drive a golf cart during daylight hours. During these hours, you can drive on secondary highways or streets with a speed limit of 35 mph or less. You can cross a highway or street at an intersection even if the highway or street being crossed has a speed limit of greater than 35 mph. As such, it must be determined whether the driver of the golf cart was operating the golf cart lawfully.
Additionally, it is important to determine where the accident occurred. If the accident occurs on private property, this may trigger additional insurance coverage applicable to the property owner. For example, if the driver is a golf course employee, the golf course itself may be at fault, triggering whatever insurance the golf course maintains. Additionally, if the golf cart accident occurred on a farm, there may home owner insurance coverage or a commercial general liability policy in place applicable to your claim. Your attorney should be able to determine how much insurance coverage is in place for the injury.
Who owns and maintains the golf cart and is it registered?
Additionally, for the purpose of establishing liability and determining the amount of available insurance coverage, it is particularly important to know who owns and maintains the golf cart. In South Carolina, particularly on public land, the golf cart must be registered through the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles. In order to register the golf cart, the owner must complete the following through the DMV:
- Submit a completed Golf Cart Permit Decal and Registration Application (Form GC-2).
- Provide proof of insurance for the golf cart.
- Submit a SC driver’s license number (and the driver’s license number of all other drivers of the cart).
- Pay the $5 fee.
By determining who registered and owns the golf cart, your attorney can determine how much insurance coverage is available for your injuries.
If the accident was caused by a problem with the golf cart itself, the golf course, country club, or individual who owns the golf cart may be liable for failing to properly maintain it. Similarly, if a specific person often uses the golf cart and did not report potential damage or wear, they may be responsible.
Were alcohol or drugs involved?
Unfortunately, alcohol is one of the major risk factors for golf cart injuries as there is a common misconception that a slower vehicle, like a golf cart, decreases the likelihood of serious injury. According to the report, Golf cart-related injuries: A community at risk, the patients who presented with golf cart injuries were screened for alcohol and nearly 40% of the patients had evidence of alcohol intoxication.
A driver who is intoxicated while operating a motor vehicle or golf cart is most likely liable for any accident that occurs, but if they were over-served (especially if the driver is underage), the provider of the alcohol may also be liable under South Carolina Dram Shop laws. These are situations your experienced South Carolina personal injury lawyer should investigate.
Some auto insurance companies offer specialized golf cart insurance coverage, but even those claims can be denied. Whether your golf cart accident is covered by homeowner’s insurance, motorcycle insurance, car insurance or another party’s property liability insurance, golf cart liability coverage can be a challenge to prove. When a severe golf cart accident injury has occurred, such as an occupant who suffered traumatic head injuries after being ejected from a golf cart, any ambulance, hospital, surgery and rehabilitation bills can be financially devastating.
Contact a South Carolina Golf Cart Accident Attorney
While these are some of the most pertinent questions that help determine liability, in most cases, many factors will be involved. That’s why it can help to consult an experienced South Carolina accident lawyer about any golf cart accident liability questions. If you or a loved one has been injured in a golf cart accident, call Evans Moore, LLC today at (843) 995-5000 for a free consultation on your case. As experienced South Carolina golf accident attorneys, we have the knowledge needed to quickly help you determine who is most at fault and help you pursue an effective claim.
Every year thousands of patients suffer serious complications from the most preventable injury: foreign items left in the body after an operation. Surgical items like sponges, clamps, and needles can cause life-threatening infections and other complications, including perforation of internal organs and permanent nerve damage. Retained foreign objects after surgery are classified as “never events,” meaning they are never supposed to occur and are 100% preventable.
It is difficult to estimate the magnitude of how often this type of medical negligence occurs. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it is anywhere between 1 in 100 to 1 in 5000 surgeries. However, a study done in 2008 reported to the Annals of Surgery that mistakes in tool and sponge counts happened in 12.5% of surgeries. Additionally, the Patient Safety Monitor Alert, announced in 2003 that 1,500 tools were stitched into patients each year. About 1% of these cases result in death. These retained foreign objects, most commonly sponges used to soak up blood and fluids, can spread harmful bacteria or cause painful tumors to grow around the object. The foreign object may not cause any immediate symptoms and may take months or years to be discovered.
Common Retained Foreign Objects
The average surgery uses about 300 surgical instruments, and major surgeries can use up to 600 instruments. All of them must be carefully tracked or they can be negligently left behind. The most common foreign objects or instruments left after surgery include:
- Cotton Swabs
Effects of Foreign Objects in the Body
Serious and potentially fatal consequences result from retained foreign objects after surgeries. Some complications include:
- The most common signs are symptoms of infection. These infections can become fatal if they reach vital organs.
- Pain as the foreign objects, if not quickly removed, can cause permanent nerve damage.
- Damage to organs, blood vessels, and other structures—sharp objects like needles and scalpels can perforate nearby organs and vessels.
- Death—if infections or internal damages are not detected and treated in a timely manner, results can be fatal for the patient.
Although retained object complications are becoming increasingly more common, they are entirely preventable. There are a number of safeguards hospitals employ to prevent surgical tools from being left in patients’ bodies. However, sometimes the system breaks down due to human error or unforeseen circumstances related to the surgery. Leaving a tool in a patient after surgery is generally a clear case of negligence in South Carolina. A lawsuit for retained foreign objects after surgery falls into the category of a medical malpractice lawsuit. If you have undergone surgery and feel that you have suffered a retained foreign object injury, contact the surgical negligence attorneys at Evans Moore, LLC.
If you or a loved one has suffered complications from items left inside a patient after surgery, you need to ensure you are well represented by an attorney with experience handling retained object cases. The complications suffered could have been avoided and may have lasting consequences that can affect your quality of life for years to come. The retained foreign object attorneys at Evans Moore, LLC are experienced medical malpractice attorneys who work tirelessly to develop a comprehensive legal strategy to ensure that you receive fair compensation for the damages you or your loved one suffered. For more information, feel free to contact us directly at (843) 995-5000 for a free consultation.
Today, May 24, 2018, Evans Moore, LLC, along with Rhoad & Rhoad, and the Law Office of Grover Seaton, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the South Carolina Department of Corrections in connection with the Lee Correctional prison riot that took place on April 15, 2018.
According to Mr. Gaskins’ death certificate, Mr. Gaskins died from exsanguination, also known as severe loss of blood, due to multiple stab wounds and sharp force injuries. The Estate of Eddie Gaskins is the first wrongful death lawsuit filed in connection with the prison riot that left seven (7) inmates dead and an additional twenty-two (22) hospitalized. The Lee Correctional prison riot has been classified as the Nation’s deadliest prison riot in a quarter-century.
The pleadings allege that recent incidents within SCDC, including the Lee Correctional prison riot, show a pattern and practice of gross negligence and conscious indifference by the administrators and supervisors at Lee Correctional Institution in properly monitoring the inmates, providing basic medical care, and supervising and training correctional officers among other issues.
Attorney James B. Moore III, one of the attorneys representing the Estate of Eddie Gaskins stated: “What should have been a likely two-year sentence resulted in a death sentence for Eddie. How much blood must be spilled before SCDC adheres to its own rules? Eddie was not just an inmate; he was a son, a brother, and a father to four young children.”
Attorney Scott C. Evans added: “Lee Correctional Institution has a history of serious human rights violations. Ten years ago, SCDC’s own documents implicated Lee Correctional staff in the freezing death of a non-verbal, developmentally disabled inmate who was left without clothing or blankets for 7 days in the winter. Not a single Lee Correctional employee was indicted, fired, reprimanded, or even written up in connection with that inmate’s death. This continuing pattern of blatant disregard for basic safety and human rights has no place in the modern world.”
Evans Moore, LLC anticipates the filing of a separate lawsuit in Federal Court for the violations of Mr. Gaskin’s civil rights once discovery progresses and the pending investigatory reports are released.
For the third consecutive year, trial attorneys Scott C. Evans and James “Boo” Moore III of Evans Moore, LLC were recognized as 2018 Super Lawyer’s “Rising Stars,” a list of the top up-and-coming lawyers in South Carolina.
These lists are compiled to help people searching for attorneys to find the “best of the best” in their area. Each year, no more than 2.5 percent of the lawyers in the state receive this honor. The annual service selections are made using a rigorous, multi-phased process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates, and peer-reviews by practice areas.
A certified death certificate may be an important part of your wrongful death claim as a means of obtaining death benefits, claiming insurance proceeds, notifying social security and other legal purposes. Additionally, most probate courts require a certified copy of the death certificate in order to appoint a personal representative or special administer to investigate and pursue legal claims on behalf of the estate or deceased person.
In order to obtain a certified death certificate in South Carolina, we typically start by contacting the South Carolina Division of Vital Records. South Carolina Vital Records issues certified copies of South Carolina birth certificates, death certificates, marriage records, and divorce records for events that occurred in the State of South Carolina. You may be entitled to obtain a certified copy of a South Carolina death certificate if you are a member of the decedent’s family. Below, please find the steps recommended by South Carolina Vital Records to obtain a certified copy of the death certificate on your own.
When consulting with legal counsel regarding a potential wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a family member or loved one, it is important to obtain a certified copy of the decedent’s death certificate. With a death certificate and other necessary paperwork, an estate can be opened and a special administrator or personal representative appointed. The special administrator or personal representative can possess the power and authorization to help your lawyers investigate a potential lawsuit by signing medical authorizations – allowing your wrongful death lawyer to request medical records, request an autopsy report, demand death benefits, and take other necessary legal action.
When an autopsy is performed, it generally takes additional weeks or months for the death certificate to become available. While mistakes on death certificates are uncommon, they do happen, so it is important to review every detail of the certificate once you receive it. In cases of suspected medical malpractice, if your loved one died in the hospital, nursing home, or even a detention center, jail, or prison, his or her attending physician will issue cause of death and sign the certificate. If the physician attempts to cover up a case of malpractice, the cause of death may be falsified. You should obtain the death certificate immediately to determine if the cause of death is plausible and accurate. If you suspect your loved one’s death was attributed to malpractice, you may need to request an autopsy or investigation before the body is cremated or embalmed and buried.
If your loved one or family member has died under suspicious circumstances, you may have the right to investigate a potential wrongful death action. At Evans Moore, LLC, our attorneys will work with you to develop a comprehensive legal strategy to investigate and pursue a wrongful death action. Our goal is to hold the responsible party accountable, to ensure that it does not happen again, and to work as hard as we possibly can to fully compensate you for your loss. Contact us at (843) 995-5000 to learn more about your legal options.
The Georgetown lawyers of Evans Moore, LLC took an opportunity to give back to the community by donating turkeys to families in need this Thanksgiving. The turkeys were delivered on Monday, November 20th.
Attorneys James B. Moore III and Scott Evans have decided to make the turkey giveaway an annual event, to continue helping the community as well as connect with Georgetown residents. The firm gave away 150 turkeys this year, and hope the event grows to help even more families next year.
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