Sister sues over inmate’s ’14 death
Complaint says prison, medical staff ignored pneumonia’s grip
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.