CHARLESTON, SC – Seven months ago, a woman died inside the Charleston County Detention Center. Now, her family plans to sue, blaming the jail’s medical staff for her death.
50-year-old Joyce Curnell went to jail on July 21st of last year and died a day later. According to reports from the family’s attorney and the Sheriff’s Office, it was Curnell’s son who called deputies, telling them she was at the hospital and had a warrant out for her arrest. The same son who turned her in is now planning to sue the jail’s medical staff.
Stephen Corson is organizing a walk for Joyce Curnell and says, “It’s not okay and we have to draw the line and say this stops here we won’t tolerate this anymore, we as a community need to show that our voices matter.”
According to documents detailing the last hours of her life, the 50-year-old woman was taken to Roper St. Francis hospital July 21st complaining of stomach pains. Joyce, who also suffered from sickle cell disease and chronic alcoholism, was diagnosed with hypertension and gastroenteritis, or the stomach flu. While she was in the hospital, Joyce’s son, Javon Curnell, called Charleston County Dispatch to let them know she was at Roper because she had an active arrest warrant for a shoplifting charge.
Javon told the dispatcher his mother needs time to detox, and she won’t listen to him to get help. Javon said, “Before I have to bury her, I’d rather she go to jail.” Thursday evening, News 2 reporters spoke with Javon and he said he made the decision to call the police because at the time he said it was the only way he could help his mother for the situation she was in.
Joyce was discharged and taken directly to jail, booked at 2:30 that afternoon. Javon Curnell’s attorneys, who are handling Joyce’s estate, say the discharge instructions urged prompt medical attention if her symptoms continued. They say Joyce kept vomiting through the night, into the next morning and afternoon, but the Sheriff’s Office reports Joyce vomited the morning of the 22nd and had no further complaints. Joyce was check by jail medical staff at 2:00 that afternoon and was found unresponsive in her cell three hours later.
The autopsy report says Joyce died of natural causes related to the stomach flu. Attorneys say her death was preventable, if she’d received the proper medical attention and drinking water necessary for dehydration and alcohol withdrawal. Her family plans to sue the jail’s medical provider, Carolina Center for Occupational Health, for malpractice. Many community members are upset as a result of the Curnell family’s allegations and are planning a walk downtown Friday to make a statement.
Corson says, “We need to get beyond pointless deaths, pointless murders at the hands of the people that are meant to protect us. To keep our community safe. It’s hard to trust those people when they do things like this. “
The Sheriff’s Office released all reports related to Joyce Curnell’s arrest, but won’t comment further due to the pending lawsuit, which hasn’t been filed yet. The walk for Joyce Curnell starts at noon Friday, 2/26/16, in downtown Charleston. Participants will begin gathering at Marion Square starting at 11:30 AM.