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Massey v. County of Orangeburg

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Beaufort Division

November 7, 2017

Maxine Massey, as Personal Representative for the Estate of the Decedent Thurston Massey, Plaintiff,
v.
County of Orangeburg and South Carolina Department of Public Safety, Defendant.

          ORDER

         This matter is before the court on Plaintiff Maxine Massey's (“Plaintiff”) motion and petition, as Personal Representative for the Estate of the Decedent Thurston Massey, seeking approval of a proposed settlement of a wrongful death and survival claim against the County of Orangeburg and South Carolina Department of Public Safety (“Defendants”). (ECF No. 33.) The court held a hearing on October 31, 2017, in regard to the settlement agreement between Plaintiff; Plaintiff's counsel, Daniel S. Haltiwanger; Defendant's counsel for the County of Orangeburg, Norma A.T. Jett; and Defendants counsel for the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, David A. DeMasters. Upon review of the motions, petitions, testimony, filings, and other information provided both before and after the hearing, the court approves this settlement, bars any further claims against Defendants, and this action is dismissed with prejudice.

         FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS AND FINDINGS

         1. Plaintiff is the mother and duly appointed Personal Representative of the Estate of Thurston Massey, having been so appointed by the Orangeburg County Probate Court.

         2. On or about October 21, 2013, Decedent Thurston Massey died of hypovolemic shock in the Orangeburg County Detention Center. On September 15, 2016, Petitioner filed this action in the Orangeburg County Court of Common Pleas, asserting wrongful death and survival claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, negligence and gross negligence, for the benefit of the Estate and the statutory beneficiaries of Thurston Massey. The case was removed to this court on October 25, 2016. This court has jurisdiction to determine the instant Petition.

         3. All Defendants answered the Complaint and vigorously contested Plaintiff's allegations and assertion of liability. Defendants did not admit fault or liability. The parties engaged in extensive discovery. The dispute was mediated on September 14, 2017, and the parties were successful in reaching a mediated settlement agreement. As a result of this agreement, Plaintiff has previously stipulated the dismissal of all Defendants except the County of Orangeburg and the South Carolina Department of Public Safety.

         4. The parties have now agreed to settle all remaining claims in this action for the aggregate amount of Three Hundred Thousand Dollars ($300, 000.00), inclusive of attorney's fees and costs. $50, 000.00 is being paid on behalf of the South Carolina Department of Public Safety and $250, 000.00 is being paid on behalf of Orangeburg County. Plaintiff desires to apportion the entire settlement to the claims alleged under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants.

         5. Plaintiff asserts there are no known creditors of the Estate and there are no outstanding claims or liens against the Estate.

         6. Thurston Massey died on October 21, 2013 unmarried and without children. Mr. Massey did have a partner, Allen Milburn, though they remained unmarried. Thus, the statutory beneficiaries of Decedent are his parents.

         7. Plaintiff has been advised of the nature and effect of this settlement, and is satisfied with the services and explanations provided by her attorneys.

         8. Plaintiff fully understands that upon the court's approval of this settlement Defendants will be fully and finally released, discharged, and this action will be forever ended.

         9. Plaintiff and her attorneys believe this settlement to be fair and reasonable and in the best interests of the statutory beneficiaries.

         THE COURT'S RULING

         Based upon the fact that the court has reviewed the Verified Petition; and conducted a settlement hearing on October 31, 2017, where the court was able to question Plaintiff and counsel for both parties, the court finds the settlement as outlined above and in the Petition to be reasonable and appropriate for this case, and

         IT IS ...


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