JAIL, MEDICAL FIRM SETTLE WITH FAMILY OF INMATE WHO DIED
The Hampton Roads Regional Jail and its medical provider have paid $625,000 to settle a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of a Newport News inmate who died two years ago.
Henry Clay Stewart Jr. — who was being held on a probation violation from a 2011 Hampton shoplifting charge — died Aug. 6, 2016, of what later was found to be bleeding from a perforated stomach ulcer.
The lawsuit, filed in June 2017 in U.S. District Court in Norfolk, con-
tended that the 60-year-old Stewart begged for help for weeks — both in person and on detailed “grievance forms” designed to ask for medical assistance.
But “his pleas for urgent medical care were either ignored or the care provided to him … did not address his life-threatening medical needs,” the complaint added.
“The Defendants’ indifference to Stewart’s acute medical needs caused Stewart’s death,” the suit said. The complaint alleged Stewart’s constitutional rights were violated, and that defendants showed “deliberate indifference” to his needs.
Stewart’s death was one of several at the jail that led to a management shakeup and spurred the Virginia attorney general’s office to raise concerns about inmate treatment. In late 2016, the Justice Department launched an investigation into the jail’s treatment of mentally ill inmates. The federal investigation is still ongoing.
Settlement records filed in federal court show Correct Care Solutions, of Nashville, Tenn., paid $525,000 of the settlement amount. The Hampton Roads Regional Jail paid the other $100,000. The lawsuit originally sought $40 million.
Neither the regional jail nor the medical provider admitted liability for Stewart’s death, with court records calling the settlement “a compromise of a disputed claim.”
“The payments are not to be construed as an admission on the part of any Defendant of any liabilities for the damages sustained,” according to a petition asking a Norfolkbased judge to approve the deal.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert J. Krask signed off on the agreement, saying he found the dollar amount to be “fair and reasonable.”
Of the settlement amount, $398,498 — or 64 percent of the total — went to Joe Austin, 46, of Hampton. He’s Stewart’s only son and his sole beneficiary under state law.
Another $208,333 — or 33 percent — went to two plaintiffs’ law firms that worked the case for Stewart’s family. Most of that, or about $203,000, went to Richmond lawyer Mark Krudys, who filed the case.
Of the rest, $17,116, or 3 percent, reimbursed the law firm for various expenses, while $1,053 went to Stewart’s son and sister to cover the cost of his funeral.
Krudys did not return a phone call seeking a comment for this story Monday, while Stewart’s son and sister — Joe Austin and Michelle Winston — could not be reached.
Jeff Rosen, a Norfolk attorney who represented the Hampton Roads Regional Jail, declined to comment on the settlement. Edward McNelis III, a Richmond attorney with Correct Care Solutions, did not return a phone call.
In its response to the lawsuit last year, the regional jail placed blame for Stewart’s death on Correct Care Solutions, saying the medical provider — not the jail — should pay any resulting judgment.
With about 1,100 inmates, the regional jail is a publicly owned facility that houses inmates from Norfolk, Newport News, Hampton, Chesapeake and Portsmouth. It’s governed by a 15-member board — the city manager, sheriff and a city council member from each of the five cities.
Stewart was arrested in May 2016, when Newport News police picked him up on a warrant at his 31st Street home after he got into an argument with his brother over paint.
Police charged him with violating his probation on a 2011 shoplifting conviction out of Hampton, stemming from stealing a $9.99 case of Natural Ice beer from a 7-Eleven on Kecoughtan Road.
But while in custody awaiting a court hearing in 2016, Stewart began complaining of abdominal pain, blackouts and a health issue in which his weight dropped significantly. Other inmates described Stewart coughing up blood.
“I have been complaining about my chest heart and stomack (sic) for the past two week (sic),” he wrote on one grievance form. “I haven’t been able to hold food down for two weeks and last time I was on weighting (sic) scale my weight had dropped 14 Pound. I’m in need of Hospital help.”
On Aug. 4, 2016, jail documents show, Stewart filed an emergency grievance saying he had “blacked out twice in less than 24 hours” — but didn’t know why — and couldn’t hold down food or water.
“I keep asking to go to the emergency room,” Stewart wrote, adding in larger letters: “I need emergency assistant (sic) right away.”
But jail officials told Stewart that his request was “not an emergency,” and that he would get “a follow-up by the provider,” the form reads. The complaint said the inmate was sent “on a circular pattern” of being told to fill out grievance forms and then told there was no emergency.
The next day, the complaint said, several inmates noticed Stewart “foaming at the mouth” and struggling to breathe. They yelled for help, banging on a glass window to alert a correctional officer, with one inmate kicking a door for attention, the suit said.
“I’m busy right now,” one guard told them, responding only “after a considerable period of time,” the complaint maintained.
The suit also contends Correct Care Solutions “responded indifferently and incompetently to Stewart,” and that nurses “failed to start (CPR) as soon as Stewart stopped breathing.”
He died in the early morning hours of Aug. 6, 2016 Peter Dujardin, 757-247-4749, pdu[email protected]lypress.com
House fire displaces three adults, three children
Three children and three adults have been displaced after a fire broke out in a Hampton home.
The Hampton Fire Department received the call at 9 p.m. Friday and put out the fire on Henry Street by 9:30 p.m.
Everyone was out of the home by the time firefighters arrived.
Police: Two sought after armed robbery
The Williamsburg Police Department is searching for two men who robbed a man after asking him for directions last week.
On Nov. 16 around 9:15 a.m., police responded to the 900 block of Capitol Landing Road in reference to a robbery.
The victim told police he was walking along Capitol Landing Road when two black males pulled over and asked him for directions. He said the suspects got out of the car, pulled out a gun and demanded money. After receiving an undetermined amount, the suspects got back into the car and fled along Capitol Landing road toward the interstate, police said.
The victim described one of the suspects as dark-skinned, thin and with facial hair. The other was stocky and lightskinned with a thin mustache. Both wore dark-colored hoodies and caps.
Anyone who has information about this robbery or any other crime in the Williamsburg area is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP (1-888562-5887) or the Williamsburg Police Department at 757-220-2331.
27 arrested, 75 charges levied in fugitive sweep
The Newport News Police Department reported that 27 people were arrested Nov. 15 on more than 75 charges.
The arrests were part of a coordinated effort, the department said in a news release.
“The operation is one component of the Department’s comprehensive strategy, which focuses on addressing crime in our city to create an environment where all citizens can safely live, work and prosper,” police Chief Steve Drew said in the release. The department plans to continue the operation, according to the release.
Man may have been bitten by rabid raccoon
The Peninsula Health District is looking for a man who may have been bitten by a rabid raccoon in Poquoson on Nov. 14.
The man was driving a blue truck in the afternoon when he stopped to move a raccoon from the road near 325 Little Florida Road in Poquoson, a news release from the health district said.
Witnesses told officials the man may have been bitten by the raccoon. The raccoon tested positive for rabies, the release said. Rabies can be fatal if it is not treated.
Anyone who may have had contact with the raccoon or can help identify the man is asked to call the Peninsula Health District-Newport News Environmental Health Office at 757-594-7340 or Animal Control after hours at 757-595-7387.
Survey: Long-term care costs rise in Virginia
A new study shows the price tag for long-term care in Virginia is rising.
A report shows the median annual cost of a private room in a nursing home went up nearly 7.7 percent to $102,200 from 2017 to 2018, The Richmond TimesDispatch reported.
Costs for home health aides in Virginia also rose.
The survey was conducted by Genworth Financial. Senior Brand Marketing Manager Gordon Saunders said a shortage of skilled workers helped explain some of the price increases.
Not all costs went up. The median cost for assisted living facilities dropped 1.25 percent to $53,415.
— Staff and wire reports
Henry Clay Stewart Jr. died in the Hampton Roads Regional Jail in 2016 after complaining for weeks that he was ill.