A state agency and a county board serving people with disabilities and special needs have won a defense verdict in a federal lawsuit alleging that they failed to provide adequate services to an intellectually disabled man who claimed that he was abused while in state custody, the government’s attorney reports.
Johnny Timpson and his sister, Sandra Timpson, sued the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs and the Anderson County Disabilities and Special Needs Board, alleging that Johnny was subjected to physical, emotional and sexual abuse and that the defendants failed to properly investigate or take necessary steps to protect him from further injury, neglect and exploitation. The original complaint listed several other defendants who were ultimately dismissed.
In 2013 Johnny Timpson moved in with Sandra, who also alleged in a claim under the Americans with Disabilities Act that the state’s Medicaid program discriminated against Johnny and others by placing caps on payments for home-based services, and that she complained about the defendants’ conduct toward her brother, and in retaliation the state and county withheld and delayed services to him when she took him into her home. She alleged that lack of access to home-based care for her brother prevented her from returning to work.
The defendants denied all of the allegations. Daniel Plyler of Davidson, Wren & Plyler in Columbia, who represented the state agency, said that there were numerous inconsistencies in the Timpsons’ allegations. For example, Johnny alleged that two group home workers hit him, yet they were not working on the day he said the incident happen. He also alleged that workers burned him with a lighter, but an internal investigation determined that he burned himself and no criminal charges were filed.
The jury deliberated for about two hours before returning its verdict on May 10. U.S. District Judge Donald Coggins presided over the trial.
“These are very expensive and convoluted cases to litigate in an area of law that is very complex,” Plyler said. “It was a week-long trial with multiple attorneys on both sides of the case. We didn’t think anyone had done anything wrong in terms of intentionally hurting Johnny Timpson.
“We feel like the jury saw that and that is why they issued the verdict they did. I think that they looked at this and determined the plaintiffs had not proven their case. It’s a pretty high burden to prove gross negligence and the jury looked at this and determined that no one was grossly negligent.”
Ken Woodington, also of Davidson, Wren & Plyler in Columbia, and Patrick Frawley of Davis Frawley in Lexington represented Anderson County.
Robbie Childs of Greenville and Patricia Logan Harrison of Columbia represented the Timpsons. They could not be reached for comment.
Follow Bill Cresenzo on Twitter @bcresenzosclw
VERDICT REPORT – TORT CLAIMS
Amount: $0 (defense verdict)
Injuries alleged: Severe bodily injuries to intellectually disabled person and economic losses associated with alleged ADA violations
Case name: Johnny Timpson, et al. v. Anderson County Disabilities and Special Needs Board and South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs
Case Number: 6:16-cv-01174
Court: United States District Court for the District of South Carolina
Judge: Donald Coggins
Date of verdict: May 10
Insurance carrier: South Carolina Insurance Reserve Fund
Attorneys for defendant: Daniel Plyler and Ken Woodington of Davidson, Wren & Plyler in Columbia and Patrick Frawley of Davis Frawley in Lexington
Attorneys for plaintiff: Robbie Childs of Greenville and Patricia Logan Harrison of Columbia