Daily Press (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Peter Du­jardin | Staff writer

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.

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