|The families of six veterans who were murdered at the Clarksburg VA Medical Center have agreed to tentative settlements of their civil lawsuits against the federal government.|
The proposed settlements of wrongful death lawsuits range from $700,000 for the families of Army veteran Archie Edgell and Navy veteran Russell Posey Sr. to $975,000 for the family of Air Force veteran George Shaw.
“It’s unfortunate that there is a cap on what a family can recover. It’s just not fair. (With the WV medical malpractice act), Lobbyists and legislators have decided, without ever hearing the merits of a case, that no matter how egregious the malpractice was, that the damages be capped. It’s completely unfair. It’s all about giving the insurance company more money,” attorney Dino Colombo said.
“If these veterans had been killed in another state, like Kentucky, that doesn’t have arbitrary caps, their lives would’ve been worth more. It’s a violation of the 14th amendment that by simply living in West Virginia, someone’s life is worth less. It’s time people started holding West Virginia’s legislators accountable for these infringements on our constitutional rights,” attorney Tiano O’Dell said.
Lobbyists conducted a 10-year campaign in WV calling it a "judicial hellhole," and legislators agreed by using caps.
Separate hearings are scheduled for Nov. 20 in Clarksburg Federal Court for U.S. District Judge Thomas Kleeh to consider the proposed settlements for approval. Federal law gives Kleeh the authority to rule how the settlement money will be distributed.
Former nursing assistant Reta Mays, who injected the veterans with insulin causing their deaths, pleaded guilty in July to seven counts of murder.
Mays, 46, of Harrison County, faces consecutive life terms for seven murder counts and another 20 years for a count of assault with attempt to murder. A sentencing hearing hasn’t yet been set. A status hearing in the case is scheduled for Oct. 30.
The charges and plea came after a two-year investigation that began after the VA Medical Center reported several suspicious deaths. Mays had access to the veterans’ hospital rooms. She wasn’t supposed to have access to insulin. She hasn’t said why she did it.
The families began filing the wrongful death lawsuits against the federal government in the latter half of 2019. The family of George Shaw contended the VA should have done a better job screening its employees, keeping control of its medications, making sure patients would be safe and warning families of any concerns.
Veterans expected better care following their military service, the lawsuit said.
“The VA Medical Center had a special relationship with its veteran patients that created an affirmative duty to protect those patients from reasonably foreseeable harm.”
Charleston attorney Tony O’Dell, who represents most of the families, said the families are thankful the federal government has agreed to the settlement amounts that are allowed under West Virginia law but they still want answers.
“They want the people responsible (at the VA Hospital) held accountable and that hasn’t happened yet,” O’Dell said.
O’Dell said the families still haven’t seen the Office of Inspector General’s report and there are still people working at the hospital who were on staff when Mays committed the murders.
“We still need those answers,” O’Dell said.
There remain 12 other deaths that have gone unexplained, O’Dell said.
“Those families need answers,” he said. “We can’t know that without more information.”
Other tentative settlements filed in Clarksburg Federal Court include:
–a $950,000 settlement involving the family of Navy veteran John Hallman
–a $775,000 settlement involving the family of Army veteran Robert Kozul
–a $775,000 settlement involving the family of Army veteran Felix McDermott