Jailers and medical staff at the Hill-Finklea Detention Center stood idly by while a woman lay for hours in her own urine and ultimately died of a stroke, a wrongful death suit filed in Berkeley County has alleged.
The suit, filed June 25 by attorney Andrew Creech, sprang from the February 2014 death of Evelyn Manigault-Miller. Named defendants in the case include the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office; a health care provider at the jail; former Berkeley County Sheriff Wayne DeWitt; Clifford McElvogue, the jail’s director; and an assortment of nurses, doctors and jail staffers who encountered Manigault-Miller prior to her death.
The 56-year-old Moncks Corner woman was booked at the jail on shoplifting charges in September 2013, according to court documents.
A nurse at the jail took note of Manigault-Miller’s medical history, which included asthma, hypertension, diabetes, acid reflux and paranoid schizophrenia, the documents stated. Her health steadily declined in late January 2014 after a fall in the shower that resulted in Manigault-Miller being transported to Trident Medical Center with a sprained ankle, contusions and chest wall pain, according to the documents.
On Feb. 5, 2014, a nurse found the woman lying in a puddle of urine on the floor of her cell, having slipped and fallen while trying to get to a toilet. Mrs. Miller refused to get up, according to the documents. Nurses noted similar incidents in the days that followed.
One nurse who walked into Manigault-Miller’s cell the morning of Feb. 9, 2014, documented slurred speech and complaints of a “tingling” feeling while checking on the woman’s condition, according to the documents.
The jail’s staff left the woman half naked, twitching and shaking on the floor for up to 15 hours — stepping over her body and excrement at times to deliver trays of food that went untouched, the documents allege.
A pair of inmates, however, “appeared to show great concern for Ms. Miller and attempted to help her get off the floor” while attempting to clean the woman’s cell.
The jail’s staff failed to call for emergency medical treatment as Manigault-Miller’s conditioned declined further throughout the night and into the morning, the documents stated. On Feb. 10, 2014, an officer found the woman unresponsive on the floor, her head partially beneath her bunk.
“The officer spent less than one minute in Ms. Miller’s cell before leaving,” the suit alleges. “The Officer made no attempt to see if Ms. Miller was still alive or needed medical assistance.”
She remained there for another four hours before a nurse checked on her, according to the documents. By that point, an audible “clicking” sound could be heard as she breathed. Her eyes were “affixed” and she could barely move.
Paramedics were called and staffers began to fill out an inmate death form while awaiting their arrival, the documents stated. Manigault-Miller died three days later at a hospital from a stroke and sepsis.
The jail’s staff “failed to provide reasonable and necessary medical care and treatment” in the day’s leading up to Manigault-Miller’s death, the documents stated. Those failures “amounted to a deliberate indifference towards Evelyn Miller’s serious medical needs and directly and proximately caused her untimely and wrongful death,” the suit alleges.
Berkeley County spokesman Michael Mule declined to discuss the specifics of the case.
“We were just made aware of this lawsuit,” Mule said. “Before we can comment on it, we need more time to review it in its entirety.”
Creech successfully argued a similar case last year that resulted in $2.95 million being awarded to the family of Berkeley County inmate David Allan Woods.
In that case, Woods, 50, succumbed Nov. 11, 2010 to gastrointestinal bleeding that stemmed from a tear in his esophageal varices, or dilated veins, according to an autopsy. He complained about pain and bloody stools weeks before he was transported to Trident Medical Center in critical condition, where he later died.
Manigault-Miller’s family is seeking a jury trial and the award of actual, future and punitive damages in excess of $100,000.
A Berkeley County spokesman did not respond to a request for comment Saturday.
Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.