Jail sued for inmate’s death

Published 10:53 pm Friday, August 30, 2019

The Western Tidewater Regional Jail Authority has been served with a lawsuit against it and several health care workers there after the October 2018 death of an inmate.

Michael Steward Hoffler, 37, died at the jail Oct. 19 after asking for medical help for days prior to his death, according to the lawsuit.

Superintendent William C. Smith said the jail has received the lawsuit.

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“The jail will dispute the allegations presented in the suit and will present its facts in court, where all parties are under oath,” Smith stated in an email.

An autopsy showed that Hoffler died of a perforated gastric ulcer, the lawsuit states. He left behind two surviving sons, ages 13 and 11.

The lawsuit was filed by Blanche Elizabeth Hecker, Hoffler’s aunt and administrator of his estate.

Hoffler was arrested in connection with a probation violation on Oct. 15, 2018, the lawsuit states. An intake medical screening done that night showed he appeared to be healthy.

Two days later, however, Hoffler complained to fellow inmates that he was cold, and another inmate gave him some of his shirts and socks, the lawsuit states. Hoffler then said he did not feel well, and later “began stating that he was in considerable medical distress.”

Hoffler told correctional officers that his “insides” felt like they were “burning” and “on fire,” and “correctional officers ignored Hoffler’s pleas for help,” the lawsuit states.

About 5 p.m. Oct. 17, Hoffler was taken by wheelchair to the medical department at the jail. He was sweating, pale, had noticeable goosebumps and complained of extreme pain.

When a nurse contacted the jail’s medical director, Dr. Alex P. Taylor, he “merely ordered that Hoffler be placed in a camera cell at the regional jail and that he be monitored for withdrawal symptoms,” the lawsuit states.

The next morning, a nurse documented a pulse of 143, which dropped to 114 later that afternoon. That evening, Hoffler was brought to medical to be assessed for pain. Late that night, Dr. Taylor noted he could not find a blood pressure or pulse several times. However, Hoffler was not sent to the hospital. He was returned to his cell and found unresponsive later that morning. Emergency medical personnel were unable to revive him.

The medical examiner found that Hoffler weighed 33 pounds less than the weight recorded upon his intake to the jail less than four days prior.

“His condition could have been corrected with simple, routine surgery,” the lawsuit states.

It demands a jury trial and judgment of more than $8 million.