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$769,000 Awarded For Death of Asthmatic Virginia Jail Prisoner

On May 11, 2005, a jury in Portsmouth City, Virginia, awarded $769,000 to the family of an asthmatic prisoner who died in the city jail due to inadequate medical care.

While serving a five day sentence in the Portsmouth jail for driving with a suspended license, Mark Anthony Benthall, 23, suffered a fatal asthma attack. Benthall had suffered from severe asthma since childhood and often required hospitalization.

Benthalls mother, Linda Whitfield, sued the jails on-call physician, Thaddeus Sutton, M.D., and Correctional Physician Services, the jails medical provider. Whitfield alleged her son had made numerous requests for medical attention prior to losing consciousness and that he died due to the defendants failure to provide timely treatment.

Dr. Sutton claimed his authority over the prisoner was limited and that he ordered medications which Benthall never received. He further contended that he left specific instructions for Benthall to be taken to the hospital if his condition worsened. The jails principle nurse, who testified for Whitfield, claimed she had to call Sutton several times as Benthalls condition worsened before receiving permission to transfer him to the emergency room. By the time Benthall arrived at the hospital, however, he was already brain dead.

After deliberating 2.5 hours, the jury awarded Benthalls 3-year-old daughter $750,000 in compensatory damages and $19,000 for medical and funeral expenses.

Whitfield was represented by attorneys Stephen Bricker and Michael Herring, both of Richmond, Virginia. Whitfield had also retained expert witness Lawrence B. Schwartz, M.D., a Richmond allergist. See: Whitfield v. Sutton, Portsmouth County Circuit Court, Case No. CL405-00.

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Related legal case

Whitfield v. Sutton