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Ohio Prisoner’s Estate Awarded $350,000

The estate of Brandon Copas, a 27-year-old prisoner serving a nine-year sentence for aggravated vehicular homicide at the Warren Correctional Institution in Lebanon, Ohio, was awarded $350,000 in damages for the negligent medical care that Copas received after he was assaulted by another prisoner.

According to the complaint, on April 5, 2011, Copas was punched in the face by fellow prisoner Jeffrey Benner after an apparent disagreement in a day room, “causing Copas to collapse to the ground and strike his head on the floor.” According to Judge Dale A. Crawford of the Ohio Court of Claims, prison officials failed to provide an acceptable level of medical care by failing to promptly treat him at the scene and transport him to a hospital for timely treatment of his head injuries.

Although he was clearly suffering from a serious injury, Copas was instead taken to the prison infirmary, where he “vomited a dark, foul-smelling, and bloody substance ... [he] was neither oriented to time nor place ... [and] was refused and/or denied access to any laboratory, diagnostic, appropriate neurological, or other medically necessary treatment, care, assessment, or evaluation, access to or examination by a physician, or referral to an appropriate emergency medical facility” outside of the prison. Copas was later transported to a hospital where he died.

Benner, 40, was indicted on murder charges, and following a mistrial pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in 2012.

Copas’ mother, Brooke Fraley-Arpan, filed a wrongful death claim against the state for loss of support, loss of services, loss of prospective inheritance and mental anguish. However, Judge Crawford noted the troubled past of both Copas and his mother, citing her apparent feigned sorrow while testifying in the case, and found her testimony to not be “credible.” Although he awarded $350,000 to Copas’ estate on May 29, 2014, that award included a reduced amount of damages for emotional distress suffered by his mother. See: Fraley-Arpan v. Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Ohio Court of Claims, Case No. 2012-03412.

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Related legal case

Fraley-Arpan v. Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction