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$81,200 for North Carolina Prisoner’s Estate in Breach of Duty Suit

The North Carolina Industrial Commission awarded $81,200 to the estate of a prisoner who died after a guard at the Greene Corr. Institution denied him medical care.

The estate alleged that prisoner Thomas Sellars, 51, went to the officer’s station in the fall of 2010 and informed Sgt. Vickie Shelly that he was having chest pains. According to witnesses, Shelly told Sellars that she didn’t have time for him and ordered him to lay down on his bunk. Sellars complied and died a short time later in his bunk.

An autopsy determined that Sellars’ death was due to an irregular heartbeat caused by an enlarged heart associated with alcoholism and high blood pressure. A deputy commissioner awarded Sellars’ estate $391,200 in October 2014.

However, the full Industrial Commission substantially reduced the award. “I think what it turned into was [Sellars] had a really bad heart,” said attorney John Vermitsky. “There was testimony that he only had six months or less to live, and I think that’s where the reduction in the amount came in.”

Three prisoners testified they had witnessed Shelly turn Sellars away when he sought medical help. Shelly denied those claims, but the Commission found her testimony “not credible.”

The Commission’s June 30, 2015 award included $35,000 to Sellar’s estate for his pain and suffering, plus $40,000 to his heirs. The state was also ordered to pay the $6,200 cost of Sellar’s funeral. See: Crisp v. N.C. Dept. of Public Safety/Adult Corrections, North Carolina Industrial Commission, I.C. No. TA-23089.


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Related legal case

Crisp v. N.C. Dept. of Public Safety/Adult Corrections