AMIkids Sand Hills

AMIkids, a nonprofit that runs six juvenile justice wilderness camps in South Carolina, has denied claims its staff was ill-prepared and negligent in handling the death of a 16-year-old in its care. File/Staff

Attorneys for a Florida-based nonprofit that runs six juvenile justice wilderness camps in South Carolina has denied claims that its staff failed to stop an assault on a teenager or immediately render him aid as he lay dying.

Shadeana Seagers filed the wrongful death lawsuit in November alleging that a staff member knew her 16-year-old son, Del'Quan, was being punched in the chest by other teens but failed to stop the assault or begin CPR. She also contends that camp employees made multiple internal calls before contacting 911 and were ill-trained to handle the emergency.

Seagers is suing the state Department of Juvenile Justice, several camp employees and AMIkids, the nonprofit that runs DJJ's wilderness camps.

The camps are mostly remote outposts that house low-level youthful offenders. Her son died in 2015 after being sent to AMIkids Sand Hills in Patrick for violating probation on a shoplifting charge.

In their response filed Wednesday, Columbia attorneys J. Calhoun Watson and Michael Montgomery deny the claims and ask a judge to dismiss the case. AMIkids and its employees "owed a duty of care to Del’Quan Seagers but deny any inference that they breached the appropriate duty of care to the plaintiff," the answer says.

AMIkids also demanded proof of claims that the camp's staff supervisor that night contacted his executive director and other staff before summoning 911. The attorneys denied that the employee in the dorm failed to provide CPR.

"Defendants would only admit that the Decedent collapsed on the night in question and later passed away but deny the remaining allegations," the response says.

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Del'Quan Seagers in the last known picture of him

Del'Quan Seagers was 16 years old when he died at AMIkids Sand Hills. This picture was taken two days before he collapsed in his dorm. His mother is suing the nonprofit that runs the camp and the state Department of Juvenile Justice. Provided.

The complaint, removed to federal court, came on the heels of a Post and Courier investigation published in October that found a web of secrecy surrounds camp incidents, such as Del'Quan's death, making it almost impossible for the public to get answers about fatalities and assaults that occur on DJJ’s watch. A Legislative Audit Council report found similar problems, along with “a significant lack of oversight of juveniles” at DJJ facilities.

Seagers' lawsuit, filed by attorney Justin Bamberg, alleges: wrongful death, civil rights violations, gross negligence, corporate negligence, fraud and misrepresentation, and violation of the state Unfair Trade Practices Act. It seeks actual and punitive damages.

Contact Jennifer Hawes at 843-937-5563. Follow her on Twitter @jenberryhawes.

Jennifer Berry Hawes is a member of the Watchdog and Public Service team who worked on the newspaper's Pulitzer-Prize winning investigation, "Till Death Do Us Part."