Archive for wrongful death

Mother’s Lawsuit Claims South Carolina Guards Left Son to Die in Prison Yard

Allen Capers, 32, died on December 31, 2017, at the Turbeville Correctional Institution in South Carolina after receiving multiple stab wounds to the head, neck stomach, and hand. Renegade inmates had overpowered a guard, taken the master keys, attacked Capers as well as at least eight other inmates. They were using makeshift shanks, fire extinguishers, parts of chairs, a broken piece of metal, and mattresses as weapons in the assaults.

His mother, Debra Capers Dickson, filed a lawsuit claiming that the South Carolina Department of Corrections left Capers in the prison yard to die. By their negligence in providing adequate security and medical care, the SCDC contributed to the death of Allen Capers, according to the lawsuit.

Background: Prison Violence

The rash of prison violence has been widely reported and investigated. With severe understaffing, attempts to stem and prevent the violence and mounting homicide rate has been unsuccessful. The events on New Year’s Eve 2017 were part of just another outbreak of prison. As Justin Bamberg, the state representative and the attorney representing the family, says, “We’re talking about years, years of critical neglect from the state of South Carolina, years of problems with staffing, years of problems with facilities.”

Case Study for Prison Reform

A surveillance video depicts the prison guards dragging Capers out into the prison yard, and walking up to him, but not providing any medical intervention or assistance. While a statement from the SCDC claims that the actions of the guards are under investigation, Bamberg is pushing to make this a case study in the prison reform movement. He is calling for a capital-improvement bond to fix safety and security issues at the SCDC, which would have likely protected Capers.

The promise of greater security, combined with compensatory provisions, could also fix the understaffing issue. The rash of violence in the prison system has not only affected the lives of the inmates, but the guards are in danger as well. So, prison reform means improving the environment and working conditions for both inmates and guards. True improvement must take both sides of the cell-block door into consideration. It should not be a death sentence to serve out time in prison, according to Debra Capers.

Woman Falls to Her Death After Wandering from Retirement Home

Retirement homes are tasked with providing care, safety, and peace of mind to their residents. Even a minor oversight can lead to tragedy, a fact that the family of 78-year-old Barbara Jones-Davis knows all too well.

On the night of July 8, 2018, Jones-Davis wandered from Wesley Enhanced Living at Stapeley in Germantown, PA never to return. Living with dementia, Jones-Davis had a history of wandering, and her glaucoma made it difficult for her to safely navigate the grounds. Cameras showed her walking unattended for 23 minutes before she fell 15 feet from the unfenced property onto the concrete sidewalk on West Washington Lane. She suffered a skull fracture, bleeding in the brain, and broken bones, ultimately succumbing to her injuries later that night.

Jones-Davis’ daughters, Heather Davis-Stukes and Pamela Davis-Edwards, sued Stapeley on the grounds of negligence and wrongful death. The retirement home expressed their commitment to safety and condolences for Jones-Davis’ family, but could not provide further details on the matter.

Moving to a retirement home was a tough but necessary choice for Jones-Davis. Her daughters worried constantly about her worsening dementia and glaucoma and believed she needed more supervision. Jones-Davis initially refused to move to Stapeley in 2015, but reluctantly accepted in 2017 at her daughters’ behest. The sisters picked Stapeley for its beauty and myriad of activities. They also believed that their mother was becoming too isolated and needed to socialize more.

The suit mentions multiple occasions on which Jones-Davis was found wandering both inside and outside the building. Stapeley caregivers assured her daughters that their mother’s cognition had improved following treatment for a urinary tract infection, opting them to keep her in personal care rather than transferring her to the more monitored memory care. The sisters alleged that the staff knew she needed more supervision, but neglected to provide additional safeguards such as a wander guard, or bands that trigger locks or alarms when worn through a checkpoint.

Daniel Jeck, the lawyer arguing the case, deemed Jones-Davis’ death “totally preventable.” He also affirmed that his clients’ main goal was to understand the exact circumstances that led to their mother’s death and to improve safety at the retirement home.

Unsigned Letter Raises Questions About Heart Transplant Program

David Kveton passed away after a failed heart transplant at Baylor St. Luke’s Center last year, leaving behind a widow and adult children. Shortly afterword, his widow, Judy Kveton received a letter that led her to question the quality of care her husband received. The letter claimed that the director of the heart transplant program, Jeffrey Morgan, had many “mishaps” during surgical procedures. It also stated that hospital administrators had been warned that he was not competent.

Judy Kveton filed a lawsuit alleging that her husband died due to mistakes made by doctors and nurses at St. Luke’s. In addition to citing the letter, the lawsuit claims that St. Luke’s manipulated the numbers to exaggerate the number of favorable outcomes in order to get people into the program. According to the lawsuit, “luring them into a deadly situation.”

St. Luke’s heart transplant program was one of the best in the country, but that seems to have changed in recent years. Some surgeons have left, it is believed because of concerns with Dr. Morgan and the quality of care patients receive. Some doctors stopped referring their patients to St. Luke’s. In fact, recent survival rates have it as one of the lowest in the country, and the hospital nearly lost its Medicaid funding due to the abysmal statistics. The national survival rate is 91% annually, with numbers for St. Luke’s for the last two years being 85%, far below the national average.

Medical records revealed a very different story from the one that Mrs. Kveton received from Dr. Morgan regarding her husband’s condition. The initial surgery took longer than it should have, leaving the donor organ on ice for over four hours, and decreasing the chances of the transplant being successful. The heart was struggling after the surgery but began to perform better.

There was another complication, however. A nurse turned Mr. Kveton over in bed when his chest was still open, which detached pacing wires from his heart. Backup wires should have been attached to prevent this complication, but the surgical team failed to do so. This began a downward spiral in which the heart began to perform worse, also causing Mr. Kveton to suffer a stroke. He endured more surgeries and another stroke before his family made the heartbreaking decision to remove him from life support.

Mrs. Kveton’s lawyer states that she isn’t motivated by money, but seeks “answers, accountability, and change”. St. Luke’s has made changes to its staff and replaced Dr. Morgan as director, although he remains on the staff.

 

State Being Held Responsible For Poor Road Design in Deadly Limo Crash

Almost everyone has heard of the horrific Oct. 6th limo crash in Schoharie, NY that resulted in the deaths of twenty people. A celebrating family lost several members and friends. Two innocent bystanders died as well. The driver, who might have been able to provide accurate information about what happened, also perished in the accident. The state has taken action regarding the company that owned the limo. The families are now taking action against the state as well.

Salvatore Ferlazzo, the attorney for one family who lost a member, filed a notice with the state of New York. It seeks damages against the state regarding road design and conditions at the time of the accident. According to the filing, officials have not taken proper action to correct difficult road design conditions along the Route 30 corridor. A long steep grade ends abruptly at a stop sign and a ‘T’ intersection where Rt. 30 meets Rt. 30A. The area is known for its unusual amount of accidents. Even though the road in question was redesigned some eight years ago, including added signage, Ferlazzo insists that the situation has not been significantly improved. His filing states that a runaway truck ramp may have made a difference in those lives that were lost. Ferlazzo is also filing legal action against the DOT and Motor Vehicles for failing to stop the company that put that particular limousine and driver on the road in the first place.

Ferlazzo had already brought a lawsuit against the limo company Prestige Limousine. According to state documents, numerous vehicle violations made the limo unsafe. The owners of the limo and the company chose to put the vehicle into use despite its failure to pass inspection. The 2001 Excursion failed a DOT inspection on Sept. 4, a month before the horrible events that left families in shock from their loss. Company owners Shahed Hussain and his son Nauman have been fined and sued due to the incident. Nauman has been charged by the state with criminally negligent homicide.

Ferlazzo, with the legal firm Girvin & Ferlazzo, is working on behalf of the grieving family of Amanda Rivenburg, who died in the crash.

 

Lawsuit Claims Football Coach Was Looking at Cell Phone While Student Drowned in Pool

A lawsuit in California claims that a football coach overseeing athletes in a school swimming pool was looking at his cell phone and was distracted as a 15-year-old student drowned during a swimming lesson.

Several media outlets reported that the head football coach at San Ramon Valley High School in Danville California, Aaron Becker, was overseeing the swimming lesson. The lesson was part of the physical education class when Ben Curry began struggling as he was treading water. Curry was treading water for nearly four minutes, then began struggling and eventually drowned.

The lawsuit was filed by Curry’s parents, Thomas, and Karen Curry, and is holding not only Becker but also the San Ramon Unified School District responsible for the death of their son. In the lawsuit, Curry’s parents allege that Becker was too distracted on his phone while Curry was struggling and eventually came to his exhaustion. Some more distributing details of the incident include how long it took Becker to notice that Curry had gone underwater while in his sight.

According to the lawsuit, Becker had dismissed the class at the end of the period and didn’t check to make sure that all the students had gotten out of the pool safely. He left the pool area without taking roll and Curry was still underwater. His cell phone and clothing were alongside the pool. Another 56 students had left the pool that day while he was still underwater.

Some have questioned whether his death may be a suicide, but the autopsy report showed that there was no indication he intended to drown himself, and the death was ruled an accident by the coroner. Even though the death was ruled an accident, many say that it could have been a preventable accident. Video footage that is being reviewed by the prosecution shows this. The video shows that Becker was standing on the diving board and looking at his cell phone while he was supposed to be supervising the class. No one knows if Becker was truly distracted that day and if the death could have been prevented, but it’s a question that the Currys want answers to.

Parents of Exchange Student Killed in Santa Fe High School Shooting Suing Suspect’s Parents

An exchange student from Pakistan was one of eight students that were killed during a shooting at Santa Fe High School in May, and now her parents are suing the accused suspect’s parents.

Sabika Sheikh was killed in the shooting that took the lives of eight students, as well as two substitute teachers, and injured 13 other people. Dimitrios Pagourtsiz is accused of the shooting. The lawsuit was filed days before Sheikh’s 18th birthday on December 1st. Her cousin, Shaheera Albasit, says that this is their gift to her. Her cousin says that they were raised together in the same house and their relationship was more sisterly instead of just cousins. She was the one who accompanied Sheikh’s body back to Pakistan.

The lawsuit claims that the parents of the shooter, Antonio Pagourtzis and Rose Marie Kosmetatos, ignored warning signs and were neglectful in storing the weapons used in the shooting by their son. The attorney for the parents, Ron Rodgers, released a statement that said his clients are heartbroken about the event and the loss of Sheikh, as well as the other victims, and it may be natural to place blame, but the accusations against his clients are untrue and inaccurate. He says that the process must continue, but that he is confident that his clients weren’t negligent and couldn’t have predicted the unfortunate events.

Sheikh’s parents are not the only ones involved in the lawsuit, as the suit includes two other families with children also killed during the shooting.

Sheikh was only three weeks away from coming home to her native Pakistan and she has spent a year in studying abroad. Her parents are hoping to create a foundation that can be used to help promote her diplomacy ideals and continue her legacy as the best way to keep her alive. They also say that other parents shouldn’t have to feel this grief.

The shooting took place on May 18th and authorities say that the gunman was armed with a revolver and a shotgun. There were also explosive devices found. The gunman is currently in custody for murder charges and his lawyer says the trial is supposed to start next year.

Mom Sues ICE for $60million in Allegedly Neglectful Death of Her Toddler

A mother is suing the US government for the wrongful death of her 19-month-old daughter. Yazmin Juarez is a recent immigrant from Guatemala caught up in the US government’s ever-shifting immigration policy. Juarez and her daughter were detained at the border and confined to an immigration facility in early Spring.

They were sent to the South Texas Family Residential Center in Dilley, Texas. It was there beginning on March 1st, according to Juarez’s attorney, that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) refused to get 19-month-old Mariee Juarez proper medical care, resulting in her death. For six weeks, Mariee’s upper respiratory infection grew worse and worse while ICE medical staff prescribed only Tylenol when the toddler was presenting with a 104-degree fever, congestion, vomiting, and diarrhea. The 20-year-old mother seeks $60 million in damages.

Mariee made it to a hospital emergency room only after ICE released the mother and daughter and the pair made their way to family in New Jersey. The toddler died there on May 10th. While in ICE custody, Yazmin had attempted to get emergency care for her daughter multiple times. Emergency doctors at the hospital in New Jersey diagnosed Mariee with an upper respiratory infection, acute bronchiolitis, and an ear infection.

The statement from Juarez’s attorney that lays out the toddler’s condition goes on to state, “The medical staff who discharged her weeks later noted none of these conditions and cleared her for travel without viewing Mariee, conducting any kind of examination, or taking her vital signs.

“Mariee entered Dilley a healthy baby girl and 20 days later was discharged a gravely ill child with a life-threatening respiratory infection. Mariee died just months before her 2nd birthday because ICE and others charged with her medical care neglected to provide the most basic standard of care as her condition rapidly deteriorated and her mother Yazmin pleaded for help.”

Customs and Border Protection declined to make a direct comment citing pending litigation but made clear, ” [a] lack of comment should not be construed as agreement or stipulation with any of the allegations”.

An ICE spokeswoman defended her department’s medical staff, saying “ICE is committed to insuring the welfare of all those in the agency’s custody, including providing access to necessary and appropriate medical care.”

The South Texas Family Residential Center is the largest ICE facility of its kind. It has the capacity to hold a total of 2,400 people.

 

The Dangers of Fentanyl in Clinical Use

Fentanyl is a dangerous opioid that is much more powerful than morphine. The National Institute of Drug Abuse reports that Fentanyl is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

Fentanyl is normally used in a healthcare setting for severe pain. When opioids are used, the dosage needs to be carefully administered and the patient needs to be closely monitored for ill effects. Since opioids are so powerful, overdoses are common. The Center for Disease Control reports that over 64,000 Americans die of overdoses each year. More than half of these deaths are caused by opioids.

Most people think these overdose deaths only occur from the misuse of opioids as street drugs. Yes, it is true that many deaths come from this type of misuse; however, there are also deaths caused by serious mistakes made by healthcare practitioners.

Consider the case of 83-year-old Nelson Tyler. After recently coming home from the hospital, he developed abdominal pain. He called 911. He was taken by ambulance to the emergency room at Cox Medical Center South in Springfield, Missouri. This happened on February 4, 2016.

While being treated in the emergency room, the nurse gave Tyler two doses of 25 micrograms each of Fentanyl. Subsequently, Tyler was given a third dosage of 100 micrograms of Fentanyl by the nurse who then left the patient alone in the room. When the nurse returned, about ten minutes later, Tyler was in cardiac arrest from the drug overdose. He was unresponsive and remained that way until he died three days later.

The family sued the hospital also naming the doctor and the nurse. The lawsuit alleges that Tyler was given too much Fentanyl and was then left unsupervised, which ultimately resulted in his untimely death.

Tyler is survived by his daughter, Allison Buehler. She describes her father as a kind, intelligent man who was a veteran of the Korean War. The family’s motivation for the lawsuit is to prevent this type of medical malpractice, which caused Tyler’s death, from happening to another family.

Summary

The lesson learned from this sad story is that Fentanyl is an extremely dangerous drug. In a hospital setting, it needs to be carefully administered and then the patient needs to be closely monitored for life-threatening ill effects.

Jail Officials’ Negligence Leads to Death of a Woman in A Nevada County Jail

Three days after she was arrested and jailed for driving with a suspended license and unpaid tickets, Kelly Coltrain died in her jail cell. According to the family of the deceased woman, before her death, Kelly Coltrain pleaded with the guards to be taken to the doctor but her pleas fell on deaf ears. She was struggling with drug addiction and had a history of seizures, a condition she revealed to the guards at the Mineral County Jail moments after she was arrested.

 

At one point she asked to be taken to a doctor but the guard told her that she wouldn’t be taken to the doctor just to get her ‘fix.’ According to Terri Keyser-Cooper, the family attorney, Kelly Coltrain suffered painful withdrawals hours before her death, and the guards didn’t do anything to help her. According to the lawyer, there’s hospital right across the street, it could have taken the guards about two minutes to get her to a doctor and yet they just left her to die.

 

Deliberate Indifference

 

CCTV footage shows the 27-year old throwing up and convulsing in her jail cell the day she succumbed to the effects of withdrawal. The disturbing footage even captured a guard ordering her to mop up her own vomit in her agonizing final hours. She appears to pass on about an hour later, which was around half past six in the evening. A guard checked on her at around midnight and found her cold and unresponsive. Her body was removed from the cell at around 5:30 am, about 11 hours after she died.

 

According to Keyser-Cooper, the attorney, Coltrain’s death was as a result of deliberate indifference to a serious medical needs on the part of the Mineral County Jail. Last week, the Coltrain family (through their lawyer) filed a federal lawsuit against the jail officials. In the lawsuit, the family accuses the officials of inflicting cruel and unusual punishment on Kelly Coltrain and violating her rights. The guards captured in the CCTV footage have since been dismissed by the county jail.

 

Family of Off-Road Racer Sues Race Track for Wrongful Death of Race Driver

A Florida family is suing Score International for the 2016 wrongful death of Mark Luthala in an off-road race driving death that happened in the Score Baja 1000 race, an off-road motorsports race that takes place annually in Mexico on the Baja California Peninsula.

While racing in the event, Luthala was involved in a head-on collision with another vehicle while pulling into his pit stop at mile 598 of the 854-mile race track. He was crushed in the car and suffered extensive blood loss and injury to his legs, remaining trapped for several hours after the collision. Though the majority of the racetrack was uni-directional, mile 598 was deemed impassable by racetrack officials prior to the start of the event, and they relegated the stretch of track as bi-directional, making use of left-side pit stops for drivers.

The accident required Luthala to be airlifted to a nearby hospital, where he received a partial leg amputation to treat his injuries. Luthala died four days later after a heart attack brought on by complications from the amputation.

Luthala’s surviving family has filed a Wrongful Death complaint in Washoe County state court, alleging that the section of the course where Luthala died was not adequately marked as being bi-directional and required dangerous left-side pit stops that ultimately lead to Luthala’s death. Additionally, the complaint continues, Luthala did not receive medical treatment for over six hours after the crash, remaining trapped in his car where he bled out and suffered severe strain to his body. The delayed medical treatment is suspected to have played a role in Luthala’s death.

The named defendants in the case are Score International and Promote Mexico LLC, the parent company of Score International in Mexico. Wife Holly Luthala is being represented by attorneys Peter Mazzeo and Craig Goldenfarb of Reno and West Palm Beach.

Luthala was an airplane mechanic and pilot, said to have enjoyed airplane refurbishment and racing in his free time. He is survived by his wife, Holly Luthala, and their two children.