Lawsuit filed in prison inmate’s 2014 death

WILMINGTON — A lawsuit against several Delaware Department of Correction officers and medical staff alleges excessive force and lack of care caused the death of inmate Ronald W. Shoup on Feb. 27, 2014.

The action was filed Wednesday in New Castle County Superior Court on behalf of Mr. Shoup’s 17-year-old daughter. It seeks general and punitive damages for alleged negligent behavior by personnel at Sussex Correctional Institution in Georgetown.

After the 74-page lawsuit was filed, a Department of Correction spokeswoman declined comment on the matter.

“Given the pending litigation, the DOC is not at liberty issue a comment,” Chelsea Hicks said.

Ronald W. Shoup

Ronald W. Shoup

The lawsuit claimed Mr. Shoup received “woefully inadequate medical care for a serious condition from” Feb. 20 to Feb. 27. It alleges that correctional officers physically forced him to cooperate with nurses while he was unable to do so due to hallucinations connected to alcohol withdrawal.

Mr. Shoup “suffered severe physical injury and intense pain for several days …,” the lawsuit alleges.

“Had any defendant shown compassion for the man suffering in front of them, and made sure he got the care he needed, he wound not have been killed by (correctional officers),” it claimed.

Mr. Shoup was injured as a Quick Response Team “killed him by crushing his chest” in an attempt to subdue him, according to the plaintiff in papers.

Other blunt force injuries were cited, including among others, multiple fractures and contusions.

The medical staff requested four times that correctional officers restrain and subdue Mr. Shoup, the lawsuit alleges.

The actions occurred at Sussex Correction Institution’s pretrial unit or infirmary, papers said.

Twelve correctional officers were named as defendants in the suit, along with Sussex Warden G.R. Johnson. Correct Care Solutions LLC also was named, along with five of its employees.

Dover lawyer Stephen Hampton is representing the plaintiffs.

“Practically, the suit seeks to gain financial compensation for Mr. Shoup’s daughter,” Mr. Hampton said. “For the larger part of family, they would like to have someone held responsible more than what’s been done so far.

“… The facts are pretty clear about what happened, but the focus now is learning more about why it happened.”

The Delaware Department of Justice reviewed the sequence, and determined that none of the correctional officers or medical staff committed criminal homicide.

In a report released on Dec. 15, 2015, the Department of Justice concluded one or more correctional officers caused Mr. Shoup’s death and “it is also possible that the absence of prompt and appropriate medical attention contributed to his death.”

The Department of Justice also commented on Correction policies and/or procedures at the time, and opined that some changes needed to be made.

The Justice Department said it believed Quick Response Teams should not respond to an “inmate who is passive and/or in a fragile physical condition” the same as a healthy prisoner who is “physically robust” and resisting staff efforts.

The report questioned why Mr. Shoup never was examined by a doctor in the midst of alcohol withdrawal “in spite of his significant and spiraling symptoms.”

In conclusion, the Department of Justice said, “ … we are hopeful that the changes DOC has indicated that it has made will prevent future tragedies of this type from occurring.”

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