What Do You Do if a Loved One Dies in a Nursing Home?

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.

Recoverable Damages

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.


Evans Moore Law Firm Files Lawsuit on behalf of the Estate of Eddie Gaskins Alleging Wrongful Death as a Result of the Lee Correctional Prison Riot

 

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.


Things to Know About Death Certificates in Investigating Wrongful Death Claims

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.

Four Ways to Apply for a Death Certificate

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.


What do you do if a loved one dies in jail or prison?

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 detention center, jail, or prison. If someone is denied access to medical care for a serious medical condition and later dies, the family of the decedent often has grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit, and in some circumstances, a medical malpractice and/or civil rights lawsuit. One reason being that the inmate is 100% reliant on medical staff and correctional staff to provide him or her with access to medical care.

Handling a lawsuit against a detention center, jail, or prison 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 correctional and medical experts who can assist you in effectively litigating your case before a judge and jury.

hands holding bars in a jail cellIf a loved one or family member dies in a jail, detention center, or prison, 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. You have the right to demand that an autopsy be conducted. Without a reliable autopsy, it can be very challenging to prove the manner of death. 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 immediately serve the correctional facility with the appropriate “Do Not Destroy” letter. Many times, the video surveillance, photographs, 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. Additionally, a majority of deaths within jails or prisons in South Carolina are investigated by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED). Your attorney can act as a liaison between you and SLED to ensure that SLED is informed of any relevant information you possess in hopes that the facility is held accountable. Finally, 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.

Before bringing a wrongful death case, you should consider the following:

  • Jail or Prison? You or your lawyer must determine whether your loved one or relative was in a detention center/jail or prison at the time of his or her death. Prisons generally house people found guilty of felonies, or serious crimes subject to a year of incarceration or more. Jails generally house misdemeanor offenders and people charged with crimes awaiting trial. If the person has not been convicted, most civil rights actions will be filed pursuant to the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. If the person is convicted, most civil rights actions will be filed pursuant to the 8th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Additionally, most jails and detention centers in South Carolina have private, for-profit medical providers contracted by the county to provide medical services to the inmates and detainees. Filing a lawsuit against a private, for-profit medical provider can have many advantages. For examples, private, for-profit companies generally are not afforded with protections and immunities that the government possesses.
  • State or Federal Prison? Some criminal acts are federal offenses only and some are both state and federal. If your relative or loved one is in a federal prison, any lawsuit or claim would generally be filed pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act, which requires that certain steps and procedures to be taken to protect your rights.
  • Abuse, Neglect, and/or Medical Malpractice? One example of abuse is when a person dies due to excessive use of force by correctional staff. Examples of excessive force can be use of a taser, use of a chemical munitions, use of a restraint chair, or other types of restraints that cause positional asphyxia or suffocation. Examples of neglect are when correctional or medical staff fail to take the necessary steps to protect an inmate — medically, mentally, physically, or emotionally. For example, in the case of a suicide it may still be possible to recover for failure to monitor an inmate and/or provide access to medical care, including mental health care. Another example of medical neglect is when a person is going through alcohol or drug detox and suffers from deliriums tremors or “DTs.” Alcohol and drug withdraw is a serious medical condition that often causes death with detentions centers and jails. The correctional institution is responsible for keeping inmates safe from each other and even themselves.

Law enforcement misconduct victims’ families have options to hold the system accountable for its mistakes.

Recoverable Damages

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 jail or prison for its misconduct.

If your loved one or family member has died in a detention center, jail or prison, you have the right to shed light on any injustices he or she suffered. At Evans Moore, LLC, our attorneys will work with you to develop a comprehensive legal strategy against the officials or correctional 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 your for your loss. Contact us at (843) 995-5000 to speak with an attorney and to learn more about your potential options.


SC ranks third in worst drivers of the nation

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed South Carolina has the third worst drivers in the country, an article of Post and Carrier reported on December 1.

According to the NHTSA, South Carolina was in the third spot for worst drivers four years in a row. Statistics revealed that South Carolina had 977 fatal accidents in 2015. This year, however, the state likely observed a reduction in fatalities. According to Sergeant Bob Beres, as of November 28, the state recorded 894 fatal accidents for the year, compared to 900 recorded by the same date last year. The South Carolina Highway Patrol has pledged to work toward its goal of preventing fatal crashes across the state.

The attorneys at Evans Moore, LLC understand that in Georgetown alone many people have to deal with great difficulties after sustaining injuries in car accidents caused by reckless drivers. If this happens to you, we can offer you legal assistance to help you pursue damage claims. Learn more about your options today by calling (843) 995-5000.


1 dead, 1 injured in Rock Hill motorcycle accident

A teenager was killed and another person was injured in a recent accident in Rock Hill, South Carolina involving a motorcycle and a pickup truck, an article of The Herald reported on November 4.

Information coming from Lance Corporal Gary Miller revealed a November 3 accident involving a motorcycle took place on Neely Store Road near Reservation Road. At approximately 7:20 p.m., two people were thrown from the motorcycle they were riding after it lost control. One of the passengers was then struck by a pickup. The County Coroner identified the fatality as 18-year-old Heaven Gordon. Reports showed both vehicles were heading eastbound when the accident took place. The people inside the pickup were not injured.

The wrongful death attorneys at Evans Moore, LLC in Georgetown understand that families have to deal with physical, emotional, and financial hardships after losing a loved one in a motorcycle accident. Our deepest thoughts go the family and friends who mourn the untimely loss of their loved one.


Student killed in SC drunk driving crash

A Coastal Carolina University student was recently killed after he was struck by a vehicle operated by a driver suspected of being under the influence of intoxicants, an article of timesunion.com reported on October 30.

Reports said the October 29 fatality was identified as Ryan Bielawa, 19, who was struck by a vehicle while crossing a busy street. The driver who struck Bielawa reportedly fled the crash scene and went back after a few moments. Authorities identified Edward Lee Washington as the driver and authorities took him into custody and charged him with drunken driving resulting in a death and for driving a vehicle with a suspended license. Reports revealed that Bielawa finished high school in Averill Park and used to be an athlete. He also had dreams of becoming a millionaire.

The wrongful death lawyers at Evans Moore, LLC in Georgetown send their deepest thoughts to the family and friends who are devastated by the recent loss of their loved one.


Driver killed in SC truck accident

A driver in Easley, South Carolina died as a result of her injuries after she was involved in a tractor-trailer truck accident, a report of WYFF 4 reported on October 13.

Before 11:00 p.m. on October 11, the South Carolina Highway Patrol authorities were told that a collision between a car and a tractor-trailer truck occurred on Highway 123. A vehicle, driven by Mary Gorman, 21, reportedly struck the rear portion of the tractor-trailer. The tractor-trailer was turning onto Highway 124 before the collision took place. Coroner Kandy Kelley confirmed that Gorman died while she was being transported to Greenville Memorial Hospital. The tractor-trailer driver, only identified as a 37-year-old, was not injured from the incident.

Families who have lost their loved ones in truck accidents often have to deal with physical, emotional, and financial hardships. The wrongful death attorneys at Evans Moore, LLC in Georgetown send their deepest thoughts to those who are mourning the untimely loss of their loved one.


Evans Moore Files Suit on behalf of the Estate of Joyce Curnell alleging Wrongful Death as a Result of Dehydration at the Charleston County Detention Center d/b/a Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center

Photo of Joyce Curnell

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.