Court of Claims Awards $350,000 in Wrongful Death Claim of Inmate
The Court of Claims of Ohio awarded the family of a deceased Warren Correctional Institution inmate $350,000 in damages on May 29.
Brandon Copas’ mother and next of kin sued the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) for compensatory damages for Copas’ wrongful death. The Court of Claims previously found DRC liable because of a delay in sending Copas to an outside facility after being admitted to the infirmary as “the proximate cause of Copas’ death.”
According to the April 4, 2012 complaint, a fellow inmate, Jeffery Benner, punched Copas twice on April 5, 2011. Copas hit his head on the floor after collapsing. He then started convulsing and vomiting. Copas was admitted to the infirmary where he died on April 6.
The family asked to be compensated for the pain and suffering of Copas, the loss of services and society of Copas, and for mental anguish.
The court did not award any damages for Copas’ pain and suffering because “Plaintiff has not presented any evidence to show that even if Defendant had transferred Copas to an outside medical facility within a reasonable time after the fight, Copas’ pain levels would have been different.”
The court also found a “marginal” relationship between Brooke and Copas and a “limited” relationship among Copas and his siblings.
The court found “some mental anguish and emotional distress” for the family but called Brooke’s testimony “not credible.”
“Because of the unusual facts in this case, it is difficult for the Court to separate the real from the feigned emotional distress,” the court’s decision states. “In its thirty years on the bench, the Court has never experienced such malingering and exaggeration as it has with Brooke.”
The decision also referenced a two-and-a-half hour direct examination where Brooke cried the entire time during her testimony “without any visible tears.”
The Court of Claims is given original jurisdiction to hear and determine all civil actions filed against the State of Ohio and its agencies.
To access information on other cases visit the Court of Claims website.
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