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South Carolina Settles Prisoner Stabbing Death Lawsuit for $47,500

In October 2009, the South Carolina Department of Corrections (DOC) paid $47,500 to settle a survivorship suit related to a fatal stabbing.

Justin Bregenzer, 22, a DOC prisoner, was stabbed to death by another prisoner in July 2005 at the Lieber Correctional Institution. Bregenzer’s mother, Sandra Carter, filed a survivorship suit in state common pleas court under the Tort Claims Act, individually and as the personal representative of Bregenzer’s estate.

The complaint alleged gross negligence because the DOC had failed to properly supervise, restrain, classify and seg-regate prisoners; allowed prisoners to possess deadly weapons; failed to take reasonable precautions for Bregenzer’s safety; failed to properly search for and discover dangerous weapons; failed to come to Bregenzer’s aid; failed to provide adequate security and supervisory staffing; and failed to exercise due care and caution – or even slight care and caution – in safeguarding Bregenzer.

The DOC, which was represented by private counsel, settled the case for $47,500. The agency did not admit any wrongdoing nor did it agree to change the method it uses to classify prisoners. “It’s not a big settlement,” said Carter. “But they know they screwed up.” She was represented by Beaufort attorney Jared S. Newman and Charleston attorney Ste-ven E. Goldberg. See: Carter v. South Carolina DOC, Court of Common Pleas, Richland County (SC), Case No. 2006-CP-40-7472.

DOC prisoner Kenneth Henry Justice, 42, who was already serving two life sentences, pleaded guilty to murdering Bre-genzer and was sentenced to death.

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Related legal case

Carter v. South Carolina DOC