Suit over Fayette inmate's death settled for $500,000
Saturday, December 24, 2011
A $500,000 settlement has been reached in the case of a 48-year-old Uniontown man who died in the Fayette County Prison.
The out-of-court agreement contains no admission of wrongdoing by the prison employees named in a civil lawsuit filed in federal court, including former Warden Larry Medlock, in the death of Terry Johnson in his cell in February 2007.
In the suit in U.S. District Court, Johnson's widow, Lorraine, contended her husband's death was unnecessary, the result of a failure by prison officials to take action when Johnson complained of intense pain.
Johnson had developed a perforation in his intestine and contracted peritonitis, an infection of the membrane that covers the inner wall of the stomach. The suit alleged the perforation stemmed from gastric bypass surgery Johnson underwent in 2002.
Johnson complained of the pain to prison guards, but he was ignored, the suit alleged. Johnson required immediate medical attention, it said.
The failure by prison officials to respond to the inmate's cries for help caused Johnson "30 hours of unnecessary and excruciating pain, suffering and agony," the suit said.
Prime Care Medical Inc., the prison's medical provider, was not part of the settlement. The action against Prime Care was dismissed.
The settlement will be paid out of an insurance liability fund administered by the state county commissioners association, officials said.
Neither Lorraine Johnson nor Brian Miller, the current prison warden, could be reached for comment yesterday.
Marie Jones, one of the attorneys who helped defend the prison officials, said several days of testimony were taken in early November in federal court in Pittsburgh before the settlement was reached.
Commissioner Vincent Zapotosky, who took office in January 2008, after Johnson died, said that he hopes officials learn from Johnson's death.
"I would like to think that the county has in place the protocols" to forestall a repetition of the series of missed signals that led to Johnson's death, he said.
While the county itself was not named in the suit, Zapotosky said, such matters still cost taxpayers money.
In 2012, the county will shell out a record $600,000 for liability insurance coverage, he said, that goes along with a $25,000 deductible.
Johnson, who was facing a single count for violating a restraining order against attempting to contact his wife, became ill soon after entering prison on Feb. 22, 2007.
He was scheduled to be arraigned on Feb. 26. Johnson died at 9 a.m. Feb. 23.
In addition to Medlock, the suit was filed against guards Geary O'Neil, Anthony Delverme, Kevin Locke and David Skiles, as well as Jacqueline Vanmeter Arison, a lieutenant at the prison.
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