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$750,000 Settlement in South Carolina Pretrial Detainee’s Suicide by Southern Health Partners

by David M. Reutter

On June 17, 2021, Southern Health Partners paid $750,000 to resolve a lawsuit alleging it failed to take proper steps in caring for a pretrial detainee who entered South Carolina’s Marlboro County Jail with a prescription drug addiction.

Roy Locklear, 30, had a history of drug abuse and addiction, specifically pain medications and cocaine. A bench warrant was issued for Locklear on January 15, 2013, after he tested positive on five straight drug screens in the prior month. South Carolina Department of Law Enforcement Agent Brian Truex began working to take Locklear into custody on October 23, 2014. He made contact with Locklear’s father on about October 30 and learned of Locklear’s severe drug addiction.

Later that evening, Locklear contacted Agent Truex. After some discussion, Locklear agreed to turn himself in only to Agent Truex because “he didn’t trust the local officers as they had lied to him before and he was scared of them.” He was taken into custody on November 5, 2014. Truex told Locklear’s mother at that time that the situation was an “opportunity for [Locklear] to get his life straight.”

On the way to Marlboro County Jail, Locklear said he was tired of running from the warrants and asked if he could get some help with his addiction. He advised Truex that “he was heavily addicted to pills, rubs cocaine on his teeth which were half gone, and has been addicted all of his life.”

It was alleged that Truex was present when Locklear was booked. During that process, Locklear “did deny any medical conditions and necessary medications.” The booking report indicated that Locklear was arrested for “Violation of Drug Court.” Despite his admissions of drug addictions, it was recorded that Locklear was in good health. The sections for “Drug Dependency Problems” and “Suicidal Tendencies” were left blank.

The complaint alleged that Locklear’s physical appearance made evident that he was either under the influence of drugs or suffering from withdrawal. The Drug Court warrant and information Locklear’s father gave to Truex gave notice that he had a current drug addiction. Locklear’s own statements made that point clear.

Yet, he was placed in a regular cell without supervision or treatment. Locklear was found by his cellmate on November 6, 2014, which was the day after his arrest, hanging from a noose fashioned from a bedsheet. Guards cut Locklear down from the door post, but traumatic damage was done. Locklear was initially placed on a ventilator, but his parents decided to have it removed and Locklear died November 13, 2014.

Represented by Florence based attorney Patrick J. McLaughlin, Locklear’s estate sued. The major claim was gross negligence on the part of the jail’s private medical provider, Southern Health Partners. It agreed to resolve the matter via a $750,000 settlement. The Court approved the settlement on June 17, 2021. It assigned $10,000 to the survivor cause of action and $740,000 to the wrongful death cause of action. See: Locklear v. Marlboro County, Marlboro County, South Carolina, Court of Common Pleas, Case No. 2017-CP-34-00064.  

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Related legal case

Locklear v. Marlboro County, Marlboro County, South Carolina,