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South Carolina Pays $200,000 to Jail Detainees Exposed to Toxic Fumes

by Douglas Ankney

In June 2023, the South Carolina Insurance Reserve Fund paid $8,700 to each of 23 former detainees at Berkeley County’s Hill-Finklea Detention Center (HFDC)—a total of $200,100—to settle claims they were exposed to toxic fumes while in custody.

According to the complaint they filed, the detainees were confined in their cells in Bravo Pod of the Monck’s Corner lockup in August 2014, when workers attempted to repair leaking showers with a chemical agent. That combined with caulk and use of a blowtorch to cause unbearable fumes, which a fan spread throughout the pod. Plaintiffs covered their faces with towels, clothing and sheets and notified guards, but they initially refused to permit any detainees out of their cells. Only after several passed out were all the detainees taken outside and examined by county Emergency Medical Services personnel. Some were then taken to a hospital.

At the time, county Information Technology Director Donald Boling blamed the unnamed chemical product for sending 11 detainees to Berkeley County Medical Center, where they were treated and released. All the Plaintiffs allegedly continued to suffer from headaches, dizziness, respiratory ailments and other medical problems that were not present prior to inhaling the fumes. They also accused Defendants—the county, then-Sheriff Wayne Dewitt and his jailers, as well as Allan Novac, Supervising Officer of Southern Health Partners, the jail’s contracted private healthcare provider—of denying follow-up care afterwards.

According to the settlement terms, the payout included fees and costs for Sharon Capers, Plaintiffs’ Charleston attorney. See: Bordeaux v. Berkeley Cty., S.C. Comm. Pleas (Berkeley Cty.), Case No. 2016-CP-08-1945.  


Additional source: WCSC

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Related legal case

Bordeaux v. Berkeley Cty.