First Jury Trial Since Covid Shutdown Results in $850,000 Verdict Against Horry County School District for Gross Negligence in Failing to Prevent Football Injury
On April 15, 2021, a civil jury in Horry County awarded $850,000.00 in damages in a gross negligence case against the Horry County School District. The suit involved a high school senior who received a diagnosis of post concussive syndrome after receiving a head injury during a football game played on October 20, 2016 between the North Myrtle Beach High School B-Team football team (comprised of students from North Myrtle Beach Middle School) and the Carolina Forrest High School B-Team Football team (comprised of students from Ocean Bay Middle School). This is believed to be the first civil jury verdict in South Carolina since the Covid shutdown in the spring of 2020. The Plaintiff was represented by Evans Moore, LLC.
Evidence presented in the trial showed that the student received a head injury at some point shortly before halftime, but was never pulled from the game. As a left-tackle on both the offensive and defensive line, the student played the overwhelming majority of the game except when the special teams were called in. Playing through a potential brain injury can lead to issues, including scond impact syndrome.
Horry County does not require that the B-Team football players have a certified athletic trainer present for both teams. Each Junior Varsity and Varsity team has 2-3 certified athletic trainers walking the sidelines for each team, but the B-Teams relies on the home school to provide a single trainer for both teams. Evidence showed that the trainer present for Carolina Forrest who was supposed to cover both teams did not assess any of the players on her own team and spent zero time on the sidelines of the away team, North Myrtle Beach. The jury found that the District acted with Gross Negligence by allowing the B-Team to take the field without a certified athletic trainer present for North Myrtle Beach, and by failing to assess the student for injuries once the concussion took place.
The student was subsequently diagnosed with post-concussive syndrome, and was treated locally by Dr. Frederick Daniels, the MUSC neurology Department, and neurologist Marshall White, MD of Mt. Pleasant. The District retained experts from Shreveport, Louisiana and Augusta, Georgia to attempt to criticize the care provided by these local physicians.
Scott Evans, of Evans Moore, LLC, one of Logan’s attorneys, said:
“The last place our client wanted to be was a courtroom. He is a senior in high school, he wanted to be home in Aiken. A trial is a traumatic, time-consuming, and expensive process. He didn’t want to go to Court, and he had miniscule settlement demands, he just wanted to keep his mom from losing her home by paying the mounting costs of his ongoing treatment. I don’t even think that the District wanted to go to Court. The District’s outside counsel, its athletic director (Roger Dixon) and the head trainer for North Myrtle Beach (Keeter Hayes) showed Logan great compassion and respect throughout this process. The one person who showed zero respect through this process and who ensured that both parties were headed for a long trial was the representative of the South Carolina Insurance Reserve Fund, the District’s insurance company. Citizen’s do not realize how much power that these insurance companies who insure our state entities and municipalities hold. This representative relayed to my client and his mother that she would rather see the money spent on hiring trial experts to defend her insured than to allow that money to go toward’s Logan’s future and past medical costs. Those experts she hired turned out to be biased, flip-flopping pawns who the jury rejected. That was not money well-spent.
The upside is that any of these Districts who were wondering whether it was fine to try and skate by with one trainer on the sidelines now know – it’s not safe and you’re officially on notice.”
James B. Moore III, one of Logan’s attorneys said: “We are incredibly proud of Logan for his courage to take this case the distance, not only for himself, but for the next generation of young athletes in Horry County. Thankfully, Logan has made a great recovery and we have very high expectations for his bright future.”
The attorneys of Evans Moore, LLC won a $900,000 settlement for a teenage girl who was assaulted by a Richland county sheriff’s deputy. The lawsuit was filed in 2018 and alleged that the deputy kissed and touched the girl while he was working at Spring Valley High School in Columbia. The deputy had been working at the school since 2009, and it was alleged that he had a long record of inappropriate interactions with the students, particularly the young girls.
Type of Case: Gross Negligence and Title IX violations against Richland County Sheriff’s Department and Richland County School District 2 on behalf of Jane Doe, a Minor.
Injuries Alleged: Jane Doe alleged that Richland County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Jamel Bradley made inappropriate sexual advances, to included unwanted touching and kissing, towards her during her junior year while attending Spring Valley High School. These sexual advances took place while Deputy Bradley was assigned to Spring Valley High School to serve as a school resource officer. The lawsuit was brought pursuant to the SC Tort Claims Act and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
As a result of the sexual advances, and the Defendants’ response to her reports, including Richland County School District 2’s failure to reassign Deputy Bradley, Jane Doe experienced an exacerbation of her preexisting depressive disorder necessitating mental health treatment and counseling. Additionally, it was alleged that due to the actions of the Defendants, Jane Doe was forced to participate in home schooling, which negatively impacted her grade point average.
At the time the Plaintiff initiated this lawsuit, Deputy Bradley was serving as a school resource officer, but had been reassigned to a different school district. During the course of the litigation, Deputy Bradley was terminated and arrested for criminal sexual conduct with a different victim, that allegedly took place after his reassignment to Richland County School District 1.
Court: U.S. District Court of South Carolina, Columbia Division
Result: The case settled through mediation with Karl Folkens. Plaintiff settled with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department for the statutory cap of $300,000.00 – the maximum amount payable for a single occurrence pursuant to the S.C. Tort Claims Act. Plaintiff settled with Richland County School District 2 for $600,000.00. Additionally, Richland County Sheriff’s Department was ordered to pay $10,500 in attorneys fees for failing to comply with the S.C. Freedom of Information Act
Summary of Facts and Allegations
This case began in May of 2018, when the Plaintiff served a request pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for public records maintained by Richland County Sheriff’s Department pertaining to Plaintiff Jane Doe’s reports of inappropriate sexual advances by Deputy Jamel Bradley, a school resource officer at Spring Valley High School. After refusing to produce any of the requested documents, the Plaintiff filed a civil action for injunctive relief pursuant to FOIA in the Richland County Court of Common Pleas. On January 25, 2019, the Honorable R. Keith Kelly granted Plaintiff an injunction and awarded the Plaintiff attorneys’ fees and costs in the amount of $10,515.00 based on the Richland County Sheriff’s Department’s violation of the FOIA statutes. Additionally, it was ordered that Richland County Sheriff’s Department be “permanently enjoined and restrained from asserting exemptions from mandatory disclosures that have no legal or factual justification.”
After receiving the Court Ordered FOIA production from Richland County Sheriff’s Department, Plaintiff learned that Jane Doe was at least the fifth person to report inappropriate behavior by Deputy Bradley to Spring Valley High School during his tenure as s School Resource Officer. It was alleged that after each report of inappropriate conduct with female teenage students, Richland County Sheriff’s Department did a minimal investigation and either transferred him to a different school or, at most, gave him a verbal reprimand. It was further alleged that the Richland County School District 2 neglected to conduct a single Title IX investigation, despite notice of each and every report of perceived inappropriate sexual relationships with female students.
During the pendency of the litigation, Plaintiff Counsel’s investigation revealed additional information which ultimately led to the arrest of Deputy Bradley for criminal sexual conduct. He is currently facing multiple criminal charges based on allegations of criminal sexual conduct and sexual battery with students at Spring Valley High School.
Attorney James B. Moore III stated, “It is reprehensible that a school resource officer, who is sworn to serve and protect, would use his power to prey on the most vulnerable of all people – children. We firmly believe that without Jane Doe’s courage and valor, this officer would still be preying on children in Richland County.”
Attorney Scott Evans added: “This could have stopped long before 2019. The parents of students within Richland County School District 2 need to be asking their administrators some tough questions.”
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
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.
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.
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.
For the second consecutive year, trial attorneys Scott C. Evans and James “Boo” Moore III of Evans Moore, LLC were recognized as 2017 Super Lawyer’s “Rising Stars,” a list of the top up-and-coming lawyers in South Carolina.
Super Lawyers is a Thomas Reuters rating service that ranks outstanding lawyers in more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. 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.
Today Evans Moore, LLC filed a Notice of Intent to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit on behalf of the Estate of Joyce Curnell, a 50-year-old African American female of Edisto Island, South Carolina who was found dead at the Charleston County Detention Center on July 22, 2015. Ms. Curnell is one of at least six (6) African American women found “unresponsive” while in police custody during the month of July, 2015 in the United States.
According to the Autopsy Report, Ms. Curnell died as a result of complications of gastroenteritis – most commonly referred to as the stomach flu. In the affidavit of physician Maria Gibson filed simultaneously with the Notice of Intent, Dr. Gibson states, “Simply put, Ms. Curnell died because she was deprived of water. She was too sick to tolerate the dehydration as a result of acute gastroenteritis. Had Ms. Curnell been timely evaluated by a medical professional and properly treated for her gastroenteritis and dehydration, her deterioration and ultimate death would have, more likely than not based on a reasonable degree of medical certainty, been prevented.”
The pleadings allege that Ms. Curnell arrived via ambulance to the emergency room at Roper St. Francis Hospital on July 21, 2015 with complaints of nausea and vomiting. While at Roper St. Francis Hospital, Ms. Curnell was diagnosed with gastroenteritis. The pleadings further allege that Ms. Curnell also suffered from sickle cell traits, a common medical illness that causes an abnormal hemoglobin level in the red blood cells. While most people with sickle cell traits do not experience any symptoms or complications, they are known to be more vulnerable to dehydration. The Plaintiff alleges the medical staff at Roper St. Francis Hospital recognized that she was more susceptible to dehydration and properly provided Mrs. Curnell with IV hydration and prescribed her to Zofran to prevent the nausea and vomiting.
During the course of her two-hour hospitalization, it was determined Ms. Curnell had an outstanding bench warrant in connection with a 2011 misdemeanor shoplifting charge. Immediately thereafter, the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office responded while Ms. Curnell was still a patient at Roper St. Francis Hospital and placed her under arrest. She was transported directly from the Roper St. Francis Hospital emergency room to the Charleston County Detention Center for booking at 2:30 p.m.
The pleadings allege that Carolina Center for Occupational Health, the private medical group that has a contract with the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office to provide all medical care to detainees at the Charleston County Detention Center, failed to provide Ms. Curnell with timely and proper access to medical treatment. For example, the pleadings allege Ms. Curnell did not have access to the medications as prescribed by medical staff at Roper St. Francis Hospital; did not receive a proper medical examination; and that the medical staff ignored multiple requests by detention center staff to examine Ms. Curnell and provide her with medical treatment. During the twenty-seven (27) hours that Ms. Curnell was detained at the Charleston County Detention Center, multiple witnesses – including detention center staff – reported to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division that she was continuously vomiting and reported to be “too weak” to make it to the bathroom or submit a “sick call request.” Despite Ms. Curnell’s physical appearance as described by detention center staff and other inmates, there are no records supporting that Ms. Curnell was properly monitored or examined by staff, and there are no records or statements to support that she was offered oral hydration or IV hydration to prevent dehydration.
According to a Charleston County Sheriff’s Office incident report, Ms. Curnell was last observed by detention center staff on 2:12 p.m. and was found “unresponsive” at 5:00 p.m.
Attorney James B. Moore III, one of the attorneys representing the Estate of Joyce Curnell stated, “It is incomprehensible that in the year 2015, in the United States of America, we have members of our community suffering and dying from thirst and dehydration. Joyce’s death was not a result of mere negligence, but a conscious, deliberate failure to provide her with the most basic of medical care. Providing access to reasonable medical care to those under police custody is a necessity, not a privilege. It is a Constitutional right. We are committed to seeking justice for Joyce and for her family.”
Attorney Scott C. Evans added: “This is not a situation in which Joyce needed access to cutting edge medical care to save her life. She needed fluids and the attention of a doctor. Not only has nobody been prosecuted in connection with Joyce’s death, it does not appear that any employee has even been reprimanded.”
South Carolina law requires that any party seeking to file a lawsuit alleging medical negligence must first file a “Notice of Intent to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit” with the Court in which the case will be heard. The Notice of Intent and supporting expert affidavit is filed in the Charleston County Court of Common Pleas.
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