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Tuesday November 24th, 2020 4:09PM

Tentative settlements in WVa veterans' hospital deaths

By The Associated Press
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Tentative settlements have been reached in several civil lawsuits filed on behalf of the families of veterans who died at a West Virginia hospital where a former nursing assistant admitted to intentionally killing seven people with fatal doses of insulin.

The settlements were disclosed by U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia on Saturday as well as in federal court filings stemming from the deaths of six veterans at the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg.

The proposed settlement amounts range from $700,000 to $975,000. The court filings said a Nov. 20 hearing is scheduled.

Manchin said in a statement that the tentative settlement “is further evidence that the VA and the Clarksburg VAMC were negligent in the murders that happened under their watch.”

The veterans' deaths involved in the settlements occurred in 2018.

Fired hospital nursing assistant Reta Mays pleaded guilty in July to intentionally killing seven patients with wrongful insulin injections. Mays, 46, faces up to life in prison for each of seven counts of second-degree murder. No sentencing date has been set.

Mays admitted at a plea hearing to purposely killing the veterans, injecting them with unprescribed insulin while she worked overnight shifts at the hospital in northern West Virginia between 2017 and 2018. Her motive is still unclear. U.S. Attorney Bill Powell said authorities did not receive a “satisfactory response” to questions about the reasoning behind her actions.

It is not clear whether Mays admitted a connection to Navy veteran Russell R. Posey Sr.’s death. But in addition to her second-degree murder pleas, she also pleaded guilty to one count of assault with intent to commit murder involving the death of “veteran R.R.P.” — Posey’s initials.

Tony O’Dell, a Charleston attorney representing families in five of the six settled cases, said he also has filed a notice of a pending wrongful death lawsuit involving veteran Charles Dean, who died at the hospital in April 2017, The Exponent Telegram reported. It would mark the earliest death at the hospital for which a claim has been filed. O’Dell said his firm also is looking into 11 other deaths at the facility.

“These families deserve answers, as do the veterans who currently rely on The Louis A Johnson VA Medical Center for much needed care,” O’Dell said in a statement.

The VA is the government’s second-largest department, responsible for 9 million military veterans. The agency’s former director was fired in 2018 in the wake of a bruising ethics scandal and a mounting rebellion within the agency. Robert Wilkie took over as Veterans Affairs secretary in July 2018.

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