Family of woman who died in custody to file medical malpractice suit

Brianna Beland was pronounced dead on Aug. 19, 2017, according to court documents. (Source: Al...
Brianna Beland was pronounced dead on Aug. 19, 2017, according to court documents. (Source: Al Cannon Detention Center)
Updated: Feb. 11, 2019 at 11:46 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The family of a woman who died while she was in custody at the Al Cannon Detention Center will sue the jail, a doctor and medical practice, according to court documents.

The estate of Brianna Beland, 31, filed a notice of the intent to file a lawsuit in a medical malpractice case on Dec. 28, 2018.

Along with the county jail, Dr. Theodolph Jacobs and Carolina Center for Occupational Health, LLC, are named in the documents.

Beland was pronounced dead at MUSC on Aug. 19, 2017, five days after she had been booked into the facility, according to court documents.

The documents state Beland had been detained on Aug. 14, 2017, and admitted to using injectable drugs including heroin, and jail intake records indicate a history of withdrawal.

The document outlines the days she was in custody at the Charleston County Detention Center, stating that she began to experience withdrawal symptoms almost immediately and that records indicated she was experiencing “increased irritability and anxiousness.”

On Aug. 16, she was noted to be dry heaving and experiencing nausea, and then on Aug. 17, she was found passed out in the recreation yard, the document states.

“She complains of nausea and vomiting as a result of opiate and [benzodiazepine] withdrawal,” the document states.

Records indicate she was admitted to the in-house medical facility for four-hour monitoring and that Jacobs prescribed Phenergan, an antihistamine that can help control pain, nausea and vomiting.

By 12:30 p.m. on the following day, she reported she had been feeling horrible and vomiting all night, the document states.

“An officer notified medical because he noticed she was experiencing hand spasms, and a muscle relaxer was requested,” the documents state. “Ms. Beland stated that her hand and foot sometimes spasm when she is detoxing. Ms. Beland sent back to the unit and advised to drink more water and to see the nurse for monitoring if it occurs again.”

The family claims that at approximately 7:45 p.m. that evening, she was to be admitted to the medical observation unit for heroin withdrawal but that “it appears Ms. Beland was left unattended in the medical unit” until she was discovered at approximately 11 p.m. unresponsive. She was pronounced dead just over an hour later.

The document states Beland’s death was caused by severe dehydration.

Beland’s family intends to sue claiming the defendants "deviated from the standard of care and skill generally exercised by treating physicians and/or medical personnel under similar conditions. The family claims they failed to recognize withdrawal symptoms in a heroin-dependent detainee, failed to recognize the seriousness of they symptoms and then to properly monitor Beland or give intravenous fluids or treat a detainee with “obvious” withdrawal symptoms.

The family also claims the defendants failed to properly document and monitor a detainee’s vital signs, recognize symptoms of dehydration and kidney failure and provide the proper care and treatment.

“It is more than likely than not that the above grossly negligent actions caused Ms. Beland’s death on Aug. 19, 2017,” the document states.

The action is subject to pre-suit mediation within 120 days, the document states.

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