Bluefield settles jail wrongful death suit for $460K

By Lawrence Smith | Jun 17, 2013

BLUEFIELD - The city of Bluefield has agreed to a nearly $500,000 settlement in a resident’s lawsuit alleging her son died needlessly in its jail three years ago.

U.S. District Judge David A. Faber on June 10 approved the settlement in Wanda Yokosuk v. the city of Bluefield. Records show the city agreed to a payout of $460,000.

From the proceeds, Yokosuk agreed to pay her attorneys, Charles “Rusty” Webb and J. Michael Ranson, $184,000 in legal fees and $26,636.53 in expenses they incurred in helping her pursue her suit. Also, the order stipulated that Yokosuk’s daughters, Sosha Lewis and Angela Barnett, agreed to waive any claim to the settlement.

In her suit filed last year, Yokosuk alleged officers assigned to the city jail treated her biological grandson, Stephen Z. Yokosuk Testerman, whom she later adopted as her son, with “deliberate indifference” on Nov. 18-19, 2010.

Specifically, she alleged after he was arrested and booked on a charge of public intoxication, Stephen was placed in the jail with no officer checking on his condition.

Sometime during the morning of Nov. 19, 2010, inmates informed police that Stephen had not moved the entire night. The response by police, the suit claimed, was that Stephen was “‘a drunk and just sleeping it off.’”

However, about two hours after breakfast was served, Stephen was declared dead. An autopsy later determined he died as a result of “blood clots in his lungs which traveled up from his legs all of which were caused by him being in a state where he did not move for several hours.”

According to the suit, no alcohol was found in his system. He was 21.

Along with monetary damages, Wanda sought a court order compelling the city to implement better training of its police officers. No such stipulations were made in the settlement.

The West Virginia Record attempted to find out what changes, if any, have been at the jail following Stephen’s death. Both City Manager Jim Ferguson and Police Chief Dennis Dillow did not respond to messages left with them via email by presstime.

City Attorney Brian Cochran disclosed the settlement proceeds would be paid by the city’s insurance carrier, Traveler’s. The City, he said, paid a $25,000 deductible.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, case number 12-cv-229

More News

The Record Network