While in the custody of the Sumter County Detention Center in December of 2001, Rev. Huggins, 43, died as a result of the failure of jail medical personnel to give him his diabetic medicine. His diabetic condition was made known to the personnel at the jail. A wrongful death claim was filed against Eastern Healthcare and several other defendants. Earlier in the week, a settlement was reached with the other defendants but the case continued against Eastern. Mr. Bell and Mr. Elliott believed that the death of Rev. Ronel Huggins was senseless, reckless, negligent and completely avoidable.
Rev. Huggins was Pastor of Oaks A.M.E. Church located in Summerton, South Carolina. A known diabetic, Rev. Huggins also suffered from schizophrenia. With regular and proper medication, Rev. Huggins was able to lead a rewarding life. His life came to an end, however, in December of 2001, when his medication became unregulated.
According to Ed Bell of the Bell Legal Group in Georgetown and Sumter, South Carolina, December 23, 2001, Rev. Huggins was brought to Tuomey Hospital by ambulance because friends believed that he "was not acting right." Suffering from a rare medical episode, he was medicated and discharged from the hospital. When Rev. Huggins did not leave immediately from the hospital, Tuomey security personnel escorted him off the hospital premises and tried to send him to a local shelter. On December 24, 2001, Rev. Huggins was returned to the hospital for wandering the street and was still unable to express himself to hospital personnel. Rev. Huggins was again treated and released. Three hours later, Rev. Huggins returned to the hospital and asked the medical staff to please help him because he "was just not feeling right." Medical reports indicated that Rev. Huggins was once again examined by emergency room personnel and released without proper medication or treatment.
Finally on Christmas morning, Rev. Huggins was once again discovered in the emergency room waiting room, unresponsive and exhibiting bizarre behavior. Dazed and disoriented, Rev. Huggins was subsequently arrested and brought to the Sumter County Detention Center. No additional medical care was provided to Rev. Huggins before his arrest.
Rev. Huggins arrived at the jail in a hospital gown and was placed in the "drunk tank" without clothing, blanket, pillow or bed. The Sumter County jail personnel did not complete his intake medical screening. However, they found in his possession his medical discharge form from the previous day and forwarded the document to the jail nurse. The document indicated that Rev. Huggins needed medication.
For the next 24 to 36 hours, Rev Huggins was left alone in the Sumter County "drunk tank." Rev. Huggins died in a cell alone about 12:15 a.m. on December 27, 2001, due to what was believed to be diabetic ketoacidosis, a state of absolute or relative insulin deficiency aggravated by ensuing hyperglycemia, dehydration, and acidosis-producing derangements in intermediary metabolism. He was found in his cell about 2:25 a.m. by the jail staff lying face-down.
"He died on a tile floor with no one to care for him, no one thinking of him. This case is the death of a man that was profoundly mistreated," said attorney J. Edward Bell. Mr. Bell went on to say that the defendants in the lawsuit violated their own policies, which included never leaving a mentally ill patient unattended; screening inmates at the prison for such problems; and providing 24-hour medical care for the jail, among others.
Carter Elliott, head of the Police and Jail Misconduct section of the Bell Legal Group, stated that the jail nurse, an employee of Eastern Healthcare Group, never laid eyes on Rev. Huggins. According to Mr. Elliott, the evidence showed that, after the family had brought Rev. Huggins' medicine to the jail, the nurse refused to take and to administer medicine.
In an earlier separate settlement agreement, the other defendants, Tuomey Hospital, the Tuomey ER doctors, and the Sumter County Detention Center settled the case for a reported $1.7 million dollars.
Mr. Bell stated in his opening and closing argument that "this is a death which should have never happened."
Mr. J. Edward Bell, III was assisted in this case by C. Carter Elliott, Jr. and Vanessa A. Richardson of the Bell Legal Group of Georgetown, SC, and Eugene C. Fulton, Jr. of Columbia, South Carolina. For more information about this verdict, contact J. Edward Bell, III at (843)318-1216 or Rachel Ridgeway of the Law Offices of J. Edward Bell at 843-546-2408 or visit www.edbelllaw.com.
About the Bell Legal Group LLC
The attorneys and staff of the Bell Legal Group focus on select and challenging areas of law and bring 25 years litigation experience. To successfully litigate the large scale cases for which the Bell Legal Group has become known for, the firm offers its own unique reserve of capitol, resources and state of the art technology. Leaving no stone unturned while pursuing justice, the firm has built its reputation concentrating in the areas of automotive defect, medical malpractice, nursing home litigation, personal injury litigation and police misconduct cases. For more information on the Bell Legal Group LLC call 877-546-2408 or visit www.edbelllaw.com.