A wrongful death lawsuit filed Wednesday claims six defendants are culpable after the 2015 death of Jerome Floyd.
Floyd, then 60, was an inmate in J. Reuben Long Detention Center when he was found in his cell not breathing on Aug 20, 2015. Just over an hour later, he was pronounced dead at Conway Medical Center.
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The suit names the pretrial detention center, the Horry County Sheriff’s Office, the City of Myrtle Beach, the Myrtle Beach Police Department, a medical contractor at the jail and Charles A. Bush, a doctor who worked at the detention center at the time of his death. It claims the defendants did not provide an adequate standard of care for Floyd, resulting in his death.
“If you go into most county facilities, including J. Reuben Long, and you’ve got a chronic mental or physical illness … you’re in big trouble,” said Carter Elliott, the attorney representing the plaintiff.
Representatives of several of the defendants said they could not comment on pending litigation, including Myrtle Beach spokesman Mark Kruea, Lt. Joey Crosby of the Myrtle Beach Police Department and Chief Deputy Tom Fox of the Sheriff’s office. The Sun News could not reach Jennifer Hairsine, the president of medical contractor Southern Health Partners, and was unable to identify an attorney representing the company.
Bush, who lives in Beaufort, said Friday he never met or examined Floyd, and that he has since scaled back the scope of his work for SHP.
‘[Floyd] appeared dazed’
The lawsuit filed by Titus Leroy Walker, Floyd’s father, claims that at several points while Floyd was in custody, detention staff and medical staff should have acted to have him medically monitored. It says that failure contributed to his death.
He died less than 48 hours after his initial arrest.
Floyd was arrested at roughly 8:40 p.m. on Aug. 18, 2015, for public intoxication in Myrtle Beach. Authorities found him “stumbling through a parking lot smelling of alcohol,” according to the complaint, and brought him to the detention area of the Ted. C Collins Law Enforcement Center on North Oak Street.
But the suit claims that Floyd should have been medically cleared — checked by a physician — before he was booked into the cell. Myrtle Beach police officers did note on a form that Floyd had Type 2 diabetes, epilepsy, high blood pressure and that he was receiving treatment for HIV.
The next morning at 11:30 a.m. he was booked into J. Reuben Long, leaving the custody of Myrtle Beach Police and entering the custody of the Horry County Sheriff’s Office. During intake, staff noted Floyd’s history of diabetes and high blood pressure.
They also noted his demeanor, according to the lawsuit: “The initial booking medical screening goes on to indicate that [Floyd] appeared dazed; however, there is no indication that Mr. Floyd was placed under observation and/or immediately seen by medical.”
At 5:03 p.m., Floyd was again seen by medical staff, who took a blood sugar reading of 300, above average, and a blood pressure reading of 144/84, also above average. Healthcare staff suggested “an emergency medical referral,” and observation in the infirmary, but “this was ignored by the security staff,” according to the suit.
At 7:17 p.m., he was instead moved to B3-Pod, a men’s housing unit used for inmates that needed medical observation.
After this point he was not seen again by medical staff, according to the suit. It says Floyd refused care but argues this was another reason to send him to a hospital, where he could have been more closely watched.
By 3:51 p.m. the next day, Aug. 20, Floyd was observed not breathing in his cell and was taken out of the facility by EMS. By 5:01 p.m., he was pronounced dead at Conway Medical Center.
Jay B. Krasner, a Massachusetts-based general physician, has filed an affidavit in support of the suit, as is required by South Carolina law for medical malpractice and some wrongful death suits.
“It is more likely than not that the above actions and/or inactions by the Defendants caused Mr. Floyd to needlessly suffer which led directly and contributed to his untimely death,” Krasner wrote.
He added, “[H]ad Mr. Floyd been properly diagnosed, assessed and monitored by the medical staff at the Detention Center — his death would have been prevented.”
Krasner declined to comment on the pending case in a phone call Friday, but he said he has worked as an expert on similar lawsuits.
For example, he filed an affidavit in the wrongful death case of Antonio Lemont Gregory, who went into heart arrhythmia in the Cherokee County Detention Center on June 26, 2013. Gregory was pronounced dead shortly after at Gaffney Medical Center.
SHP also was the medical provider in that detention center. Gregory’s estate settled with the company for an undisclosed amount, according to a May 31 filing in the Cherokee County Public Index. SHP successfully motioned to seal the amount of the settlement, arguing in court documents that revealing the amount would be detrimental to the sole beneficiary, Gregory’s underage child.
The lawsuit in Floyd’s case asks for an unspecified amount of actual and consequential damages, as well as legal costs.
Elliott, the attorney on the case, says he is currently working on “at least 10 other cases” that name SHP.