On October 21, 2019, a Notice of Intent to File Suit was filed against the South Carolina Department of Mental Health, a psychiatric hospital, and others, alleging that “[s]everal facility staff members grabbed William from behind and threw him to the floor by his head and neck. As William lay face-down in a prone position, multiple facility staff members [“as many as five (5) to seven (7) facility staff members”] positioned themselves on top of him, kneeling or laying partly and fully on his back, arms and legs. One staff member wearing scrubs had his full weight on his knees on William’s back. Another staff member was also pulling up on William Avant’s shirt, which was around his upper chest and neck area … [which caused] “positional asphyxiation,” due to being “restrained in [a] face down position,” and “multiple persons applying weight to the back.”
An autopsy found periorbital petechiae and petechiae of the right palpebral conjunctiva, along with head, neck, and upper chest congestion and pulmonary edema. There were abrasions to the patient’s central abdomen and hemorrhage within the stemocleidomastoid and distal stemohyoid muscles (areas of the neck).
The South Carolina wrongful death lawsuit alleges that “in the minutes before his death, as he was being manually and traumatically asphyxiated, [he] suffered severe and extreme psychological, mental and emotional pain and suffering, and emotional distress, anxiety, fear and hopelessness that were a direct and proximate result of the negligent, willful, wanton, reckless and grossly negligent conduct of Defendants.”
The South Carolina psychiatric malpractice lawsuit alleges that the defendants “who observed or participated in the improper restraint of William Avant, were negligent, willful, wanton, reckless and/or grossly negligent and also breached prevailing standards of care, in the following particulars:
a. In failing to appropriately engage William Avant to distract him and deescalate when he initially became upset;
b. In intervening with William Avant through violent and unnecessary means;
c. In throwing William Avant to the floor and piling staff onto various parts of his body while he was in a chest-down, prone position;
d. In applying weight to William Avant’s back and thereby preventing his diaphragm from functioning, impeding his ability to breathe;
e. In failing to communicate to other staff members that the restraint was improper and to insist that William Avant be repositioned to his side or back;
f. In failing to check whether William Avant was able to breathe as he was restrained;
g. In failing to monitor William Avant’s well-being in any respect as he was restrained;
h. In failing to discern in a timely manner that William Avant was unable to breathe and in respiratory distress;
I. In engaging in an unwarranted and dangerous restraint that violated SC DMH policies and procedures; …
If you or a loved one may have been harmed as a result of psychiatric malpractice in South Carolina or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a South Carolina medical malpractice lawyer, or a medical malpractice lawyer in your state, who may investigate your psychiatric negligence claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a psychiatric malpractice case, if appropriate.
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