Minnesota Settles Wrongful Death Suit for $400,000

After an inmate’s death, the Minnesota Department of Corrections agreed to pay the family $400,000 in their wrongful death suit against the state.

In the case, St. Paul native, Xaviu Scullark-Johnson, 27, died alone in his cell while suffering a bout of seizures all night long. Xavius was also schizophrenic.

Prison medical records showed that he was left overnight on his cell’s floor in clothes that were soaked with urine. When an ambulance crew arrived at the state prison in Rush City, a nurse turned them away. They were called back early the next morning.

The family is still pursuing a neglect lawsuit against the for-profit medical company that has a contract with the Department of Corrections, Corizon, Inc. The company is contracted to provide basic care for the 9,400 inmates housed throughout the state.

This is not the only lawsuit that has occurred within the state because of an inmate’s death. A previous lawsuit, once considered a record settlement, was settled for $275,000. The inmate had suffered severe burns because of errors made in medication.

Nonetheless, this is a court settlement that allows both parties to find the closure they need in a very complex case that could have been unresolved for a long period of time.

Johnson is one of nearly 10 Minnesota prisoners who died within a 12 year period after they were denied medical care or their care was delayed by the facility staff. It has also been found that 21 other prisoners suffered severe injuries due to neglect in the same 12 year period with the department paying almost $2 million in negligence and wrongful death settlements.

Johnson was serving a five-month sentence for violating his probation following a second-degree assault conviction. It was June 2010 when he started having the seizures in his cell. A senior nurse examined him before her shift ended around 11 p.m. She then ordered the corrections officers on duty to keep an eye on him, according to prison records. The prison nurse would be the only medical employee disciplined after an internal investigation was conducted. She received a five day suspension without pay for violating the protocol for seizures.

Johnson would continue to suffer seizures throughout the night and into the early morning. The doctor on-call finally told the officers to call an ambulance. This is when a nurse who had just come on duty turned them a way, citing protocols that dealt with Johnson’s medications, according to a report by the crew. Not long after, Johnson had another seizure and the ambulance crew returned. By the time they arrived, Johnson had no pulse and irreversible brain damage would cause his death.