State to pay $350,000 in inmate wrongful death case

Inmate, 27, died in the prison infirmary.
TNS Regional News
Jun 3, 2014

 

The state prisons department will have to pay $350,000 in damages to the family of a Warren Correctional Institution inmate who died in the prison infirmary, according to the Ohio Court of Claims.

The court previously found the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction liable in the death because the prison delayed sending inmate Brandon Copas to an outside hospital for treatment.

Shortly before noon on April 5, 2011, fellow prisoner Jeffrey Benner punched Copas twice in the face. Copas collapsed and hit his head on the floor. He immediately started convulsing and vomiting. He was taken to the prison infirmary where documents show he was disoriented and his blood pressure increased while his pulse and body temperature decreased. Copas was found dead at 4:09 a.m. on April 6.

Copas, who was 27 at the time, was serving a nine-year sentence in prison for vehicular homicide and aggravated vehicular assault after losing control of his car and causing the death of his passenger, a childhood friend.

A year later, Copas’ mother and next of kin sued DRC for damages in a wrongful death suit. Family members wanted compensation for Copas’ pain and suffering, the loss of Copas and for mental anguish.

The court did not award money for Copas’ pain and suffering because his family failed to show that even if DRC had sent him to an outside hospital that Copas’ pain levels would have been any different. The court also found that the relationship Copas had with his mother, Brooke Fraley-Arpan, and his five siblings was limited because of the complicated family history.

Fraley-Arpan gave birth to Copas at age 14 and Copas was largely raised by his great-grandmother in Washington Court House. Fraley-Arpan had six children and was married six times to four different men. When Copas was 12, she spanked him so much that she was forced to give up her parental rights.

“Because of the unusual facts in this case, it is difficult for the court to separate the real from the feigned emotional distress,” said Judge Dale Crawford in his ruling. “In its thirty years on the bench, the court has never experienced such malingering and exaggeration as it has with Brooke.”

Benner, the inmate who punched Copas, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in 2012 and is serving an additional eight years in prison.

Three nurses were removed, two received fines and a corrections officer was given a one-day working suspension in the case, according to DRC spokeswoman JoEllen Smith. The $350,000 payment will come out of general revenue funds.

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By Laura A. Bischoff - Dayton Daily News, Ohio (MCT)

©2014 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)

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