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Columbia Personal Injury Lawyer > Blog > Personal Injury > Family Files Medical Malpractice Lawsuit After Woman Drowns While Being Transported To Psychiatric Hospital

Family Files Medical Malpractice Lawsuit After Woman Drowns While Being Transported To Psychiatric Hospital


When a patient is involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital, it is because doctors have decided that the patient would be a danger to himself or others if allowed to leave the hospital before his condition stabilizes.  South Carolina case law is full of medical malpractice lawsuits where families allege that releasing the patient, who was obviously experiencing symptoms that made it unsafe for her to be unsupervised, constituted negligence, and that the standard of care dictated keeping the patient in the hospital longer.  Decisions by the doctors treating a patient who suffered a mental health crisis during Hurricane Lexington and the Sheriff’s deputies transporting her have resulted in a lawsuit alleging almost the opposite, namely that it was negligence to try to transport a patient to a hospital with an inpatient psychiatric ward in the middle of a hurricane.  If you or a family member was harmed by the actions of doctors or hospital staff in the context of involuntary commitment to a psychiatric hospital, contact a South Carolina medical malpractice lawyer.

Horry County Sheriff’s Van Transporting Patients to Psychiatric Hospital Sinks in Hurricane Lexington Floodwaters

If you plan to file a medical malpractice lawsuit, the deadline to notify the defendant that you intend to sue is two years after the date of the alleged malpractice.  In September 2020, just before the two-year deadline, the family of Wendy Newton submitted a notice to the Horry County Sheriff’s Office, among other parties, informing them of their plans to sue for medical malpractice and other forms of negligence.  In September 2018, as Hurricane Lexington approached the Carolina coast, Newton experienced a psychotic episode and went to the emergency room at a hospital near her home in Chadbourn, North Carolina.  She had been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia years earlier, and her delusions in September 2018 were similar to previous episodes in which she believed that a woman named Penelope was trying to attack her.

The emergency room staff gave Newton medication, and the treating physician decided that Newton should be involuntarily committed to a hospital with a psychiatric ward; the nearest one was McLeod-Loris Seacoast Hospital in Horry County.  Two Horry County Sheriff’s deputies, Stephen Flood and Joshua Bishop, were tasked with transporting Newton is a Sheriff’s transport van, which had a padlocked cage where most similarly sized vehicles have a back seat. After picking up Newton, Flood and Bishop picked up Nikki Green, another patient bound for the McLeod-Loris Seacoast Hospital psych ward, from another hospital.  Meanwhile, Hurricane Lexington had just made landfall, and disaster response teams had set up barriers at the roadsides to keep the floodwaters at bay and keep major roads passable.

At some point, the deputies encountered a National Guard vehicle blocking a barricaded road which was deemed unsafe.  Either with the guardsman’s permission or against his advice, Flood drove the van around a barricade, and soon the floodwaters carried the van away and pinned it to a guardrail.  Only Bishop, in the front passenger seat, could easily get out of the van.  He tried to shoot the padlock with the gun issued to him by the Sheriff’s Office, so that he could rescue the women, but that did not work.  He helped Flood escape through a front window of the van, and then the two deputies stood on top of the van to flag down rescuers.  By the time the rescuers arrived, Newton and Green had drowned.

Bishop has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, and Flood has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and reckless homicide.  Newton’s family alleges that the deputies acted negligently by driving around the barricade and that the hospital acted negligently by recommending transport in such dangerous conditions.  News media have not mentioned any lawsuits by Green’s family.

Contact Us Today for Help

A Columbia personal injury lawyer can help you if a doctor’s decision to transport you to another hospital made your condition worse.  Contact The Stanley Law Group for more information.



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