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Overdose death in custody leads to $1.8M settlement 

Heath Hamacher//February 14, 2022

Overdose death in custody leads to $1.8M settlement 

Heath Hamacher//February 14, 2022

The estate of a man who died after overdosing on methamphetamine while in the custody of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department has settled its lawsuit against the office for $1.8 million.

Taylor

Ellis Boyle of Knott & Boyle in Raleigh and Winslow Taylor of Taylor & Taylor in Winston-Salem, the attorneys for the estate of Joshua Long, said that the 31-year-old man died unnecessarily, and that the sheriff’s office has a longstanding practice and custom of violating its own written policy. 

“Although Detention Center policy required a medical observation form, a medical questionnaire form, an officer observation form, and a mental health screening form, neither Sgt. [Frank] Daly nor any other Defendant Detention Officer completed said documents,” the attorneys wrote in court documents. “Sgt. Daly never even took Mr. Long’s mug shot.” 

According to the complaint, Cherokee County deputies responding to a call for service found Long shirtless, yelling, and cursing before he swallowed an unknown substance. Long was arrested for marijuana possession and resisting an officer. 

Boyle

Two deputies on the scene asked Long if the substance he swallowed was drugs, which Long denied. Long also declined medical attention. He was taken to the Cherokee County Detention Center at approximately 7 p.m., where he was given a $1,000 secured bond to help ensure that he wouldn’t leave jail before sobering up. 

The arresting deputy told detention officers that Long had swallowed an unknown substance, according to court documents. 

Long’s attorneys said that tint on the windows of his holding cell made it difficult to see inside without peering from up close, and jail video showed officers completing several “insufficient” security rounds without looking into the cell. 

At 10:45, Long slipped a piece of paper under his cell door, though no one to this day knows what it said or can produce it. 

Shortly after Long passed the note, officers found him unconscious in his cell. They began CPR and told emergency dispatchers that Long might be “coming down from something.” Around midnight, officers realized that Long’s medical situation was dire. Long left the jail on a medical helicopter at around 12:40 a.m. and was pronounced dead at the University of Tennessee Medical Center. 

Long’s attorneys said that he should have been sent for a medical evaluation hours before his medical emergency manifested. 

“They ignored Mr. Long until he died in a cell just a few feet away from their booking desk,” his attorneys wrote in court documents. 

Although an Aug. 27, 2021 mediation failed to produce a resolution, the parties agreed to the settlement terms just over two weeks later. 

Boyle said that plaintiff’s attorneys appreciate the hard-fought efforts by the defense, but also appreciates that the parties were able to come together and avoid a “painful and long trial.” 

“It was the right thing and justice was served,” Boyle said. “And the family appreciated it.” 

Sean Perrin of Womble Bond Dickinson in Charlotte and Pat Flanagan of Cranfill Sumner in Charlotte represented the defendants. Neither responded to requests for comment on the settlement. 

Follow Heath Hamacher on Twitter @NCLWHamacher 

SETTLEMENT REPORT – CIVIL RIGHTS 

Amount: $1.8 million 

Injuries alleged: Death 

Case name: Jason Blackwell on behalf of estate of Joshua Shane Long v. Sheriff Palmer, Cherokee County Sheriff Department, et al. 

Court: U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina 

Case No.: 1:20-CV-00146 

Judge: Martin Reidinger 

Date of settlement: Jan. 3 

Most helpful experts: Dr. Josef Thundiyil of Orlando, Florida (emergency medicine physician) 

Attorneys for plaintiff: Ellis Boyle of Knott & Boyle in Raleigh and Winslow Taylor of Taylor & Taylor in Winston-Salem 

Attorneys for defendants: Sean Perrin of Womble Bond Dickinson in Charlotte and Pat Flanagan of Cranfill Sumner in Charlotte 

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