Sis­ter sues over in­mate’s ’14 death

Com­plaint says prison, med­i­cal staff ig­nored pneu­mo­nia’s grip

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - ARKANSAS - JOHN MORITZ

A fed­eral law­suit, over the 2014 death of an in­mate at Arkansas’ Varner Unit from a res­pi­ra­tory ill­ness, claims that weeks of his com­plaints of cough­ing and trouble breath­ing went ig­nored by the prison staff.

The suit, filed Mon­day in Lit­tle Rock by the sis­ter of Win­fred Javaar Lawrence, claims that staff mem­bers for both the prison and the pri­vate med­i­cal com­pany hired by the state to treat in­mates acted with “de­lib­er­ate in­dif­fer­ence and neg­li­gence” to­ward Lawrence’s med­i­cal needs.

Lawrence died Nov. 11, 2014, at Jef­fer­son County Re­gional Med­i­cal Cen­ter from com­pli­ca­tions re­lated to pneu­mo­nia. He was 37.

The day be­fore, he had been found un­re­spon­sive in his cell.

Ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint filed by Rose Loronta Lawrence, her brother be­gan com­plain­ing to his guards more than two months be­fore about hav­ing short­ness of breath and a cough.

As his con­di­tion wors­ened, Lawrence re­ceived noth­ing but cough drops, the com­plaint says. Even­tu­ally, he de­vel­oped nau­sea and could not keep food or flu­ids down.

Af­ter he was found un­re­spon­sive in his cell and rushed to the hos­pi­tal, doc­tors de­ter­mined Lawrence was ane­mic and de­hy­drated

and had bi­lat­eral pneu­mo­nia, which had wors­ened into an in­fec­tion in one of his lungs, ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint.

The cause of his death the next day was listed as res­pi­ra­tory dis­tress.

The com­plaint al­leges the Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tion failed to ad­e­quately train its staff to mon­i­tor and re­spond to in­mates’ med­i­cal needs. Cor­rect Care So­lu­tions, a Nashville com­pany un­der con­tract to pro­vide health care to Arkansas in­mates, also stood to lose prof­its if it had cov­ered Lawrence’s trip to a hos­pi­tal, the com­plaint states.

Spokes­men for both the Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tion and Cor­rect Care So­lu­tions de­clined to com­ment on the pend­ing law­suit.

The state has yet to file its re­sponse in court, and At­tor­ney Gen­eral Les­lie Rut­ledge’s spokesman Judd Deere said Rut­ledge was re­view­ing the case.

Rose Lawrence is seek­ing dam­ages for loss of life, men­tal an­guish, and med­i­cal and funeral ex­penses, as well as puni­tive dam­ages.

Kim Cole, a Dal­las at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing the Lawrence fam­ily, said the Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tion has not re­leased Lawrence’s prison in­fir­mary records to his fam­ily.

Pris­ons spokesman Solomon Graves said Lawrence was serv­ing a 30-year term

on drug charges, ag­gra­vated rob­bery, theft of prop­erty and theft by re­ceiv­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to news­pa­per records, Lawrence was con­victed of rob­bing a Lit­tle Rock bank in 2000, steal­ing $7,000.

He was taken into the cus­tody of the Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tion in July the next year.

He was trans­ferred to the Varner Unit in Jan­uary 2013.

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