Hearing concerns $1.45M settlement with deceased Philadelphia inmate's family

By Nicholas Malfitano | Jun 24, 2015

PHILADELPHIA – A hearing held in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on Tuesday will assist in determining the proper distribution of $1.45 million in survival action proceeds to the family of a deceased city prisoner.

A motion to initiate and categorize the distribution of the seven-figure settlement to the family of the late Joseph David Wallace and related parties was filed on Jan. 9, after the settlement itself was reached on Dec. 3.

The plaintiff in the litigation and grandmother of the decedent is Philadelphia resident Rosemary Wallace, and the mother of the decedent’s daughter is Krystle Doherty.

One of the issues that was scheduled to be discussed at the hearing was be the $161,500 purchase of a home in Palmyra, N.J. for the decedent’s daughter, Gabriella Wallace.

The hearing stems from a negligence, wrongful death and survival action lawsuit brought by Rosemary Wallace in January 2013 over the death of her grandson, Joseph David Wallace.

Wallace was admitted to Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility on March 8, 2012, following an arrest. Subsequent to his arrival at Curran-Fromhold, he participated in a medical screening interview with employees of Corizon Health, the agency charged with providing medical care to inmates at the facility. These employees included registered nurse Barbara Kiter.

The purpose of the interview was to determine the quality of Wallace’s health, ascertain any medical conditions he may have had and determine if he was taking any medication(s) for those conditions.

According to the lawsuit, Wallace claimed to be prescribed Clonazepam, a high-potency, anti-anxiety drug that he took three times daily. It was also determined Wallace was in the process of Methadone treatments to combat abuse of opiates.

Kiter allegedly did not list Clonazepam as a medicine needing to be taken by Wallace, nor did she inform prison officials of Wallace’s valid prescription for the drug.

As a part of the medical screening, Wallace was also evaluated by Dr. Jose Boggio. Boggio reviewed Wallace’s paperwork and medical history, noting his Methadone treatment. However, despite his alleged knowledge of Wallace’s prescription for Clonazepam, Boggio did not prepare a physician’s order for the drug.

During March 8-12, 2012, Wallace allegedly requested his usual doses of Clonazepam several times, to no avail. It is alleged licensed practical nurse Amanda Norman and registered nurse Elizabeth Boxer completed paperwork to transfer Wallace to Philadelphia Industrial Correction Center (PICC) on March 12, 2012, without noting he needed doses of Clonazepam.

According to the lawsuit, Wallace’s physical condition deteriorated both before he was transferred to PICC, and afterwards, through March 14, 2012.

On March 14, 2012, Wallace was found lifeless in his cell at PICC and not breathing. Emergency services personnel were called, but Wallace died at 9:09 p.m. that night.

A subsequent report signed July 26, 2012, by Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Gary L. Collins determined Wallace’s cause of death to be seizure and cardiac arrest, resulting from Clonazepam withdrawal.

The suit says Wallace’s death was solely due to the defendants’ negligence in failing to note Wallace’s need to continue taking regular doses of Clonazepam and delaying necessary medical treatments.

Specifically, charges of negligence were levied against Kiter, Boggio, Norman, Boxer and Corizon; a charge of vicarious liability against Corizon, plus wrongful death and survival action against all defendants.

In breaking down the $1.45 million settlement amount, the funds are due to distributed as follows:

-Reimbursement to Gay Chacker & Mittin: $19,329.56;

-Counsel Fees to Gay Chacker & Mittin: $476,890.14;

-Home Purchase Fee to Maryke D. Clarke: $161,500;

-Department of Public Welfare: $292,280.30; and

-Wrongful Death Annuity to Benefit Gabriella Wallace: $500,000.

Prior to the creation of the settlement, the plaintiff was seeking judgment against all defendants in excess of $50,000, plus delay damages, court costs, interest and any other relief the Court deemed just and proper.

The plaintiff is represented by Edward F. Chacker of Gay Chacker & Mittin, in Philadelphia.

The defendants are represented by Alan C. Ostrow, Stephen E. Siegrist and Sean Kirby, in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 130100318

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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