By Randy Arrington
LURAY, Jan. 26 — The mother of a former inmate filed a civil lawsuit in the Page County Circuit Court on Jan. 14 seeking $1.85 million in damages for the “wrongful death” of her son while incarcerated in the Page County Jail.
The 15-page claim filed on behalf of LaDonna J. Sampson asserts “gross negligence” in the “care and treatment” of her son, Cody Shotwell Brown, after the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner declared that “fentanyl intoxication” was the cause of his death on May 27, 2021.
“Brown ingested, inhaled or consumed fentanyl while in the custody of Page County Jail,” the lawsuit claims, on the day before his death. The civil suit states that not only did Page County officials fail to prevent illegal drugs from coming into the jail, but they also failed to “ensure the availability of emergency medical equipment and/or treatments, to include naloxone” as well as “failing to respond to medical emergencies in a timely fashion.”
Six separate defendants were served for the following causes:
- Michael Helm, county attorney, on behalf of Page County, who “operated and controlled Page County Jail”;
- Sheriff Chad W. Cubbage, sheriff of Page County, “a constitutional officer independent of Page County”, sued individually for being responsible “for the training, supervision, and conduct of all deputies, officers, and employees under his command”;
- Major Pete Monteleone, Chief Deputy, sued individually as “an officer with the Page County Sheriff’s Office” that was “responsible for the care of those in custody, as well as the training, supervision, and conduct of all deputies, officers, and employees under his command”;
- Captain Randall Williams, sued individually, who “operated and managed Page County Jail and directed and supervised its personnel, to include supervision of defendants named”;
- Lieutenant St. Claire, sued individually, “acting within the scope of his employment”;
- Stoneberger [first name omitted in suit], sued individually, “acting within the scope of his employment.”
On Aug. 24, 2020, Brown was involved in a three-vehicle, motorcycle accident in Stanley that claimed the life of his 26-year-old fiance’, LaDonna Christina Norris. Brown was hospitalized for nearly a month with multiple fractures, displacements and lacerations. The lawsuit claims that when he was discharged from the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville on Sept. 19, 2020, he was “prescribed acetaminophen, apixaban, bacitracin-polymyxin, fluoxetine, gabapentin and oxycodone to manage pain and inflammation, as well as depression.”
On Dec. 2, 2020, Brown was arrested on charges related to the fatal accident and held in Page County Jail without bail. Six months later, the lawsuit asserts that Brown “ingested fentanyl in the Page County Jail bathroom and returned to his cell” on the afternoon of May 26, 2021.
The suit also states that “Brown was unresponsive for an unknown time before his cellmate noticed Mr. Brown’s lips were blue and alerted guards by pressing the buzzer. An unknown time passed before any guard arrived.” Around 4:21 p.m., according to the suit, Lt. St. Claire and Stoneberger arrived at the cell and “initiated resuscitative measures on Mr. Brown until EMS arrived.” Despite an inmate telling them to “narcan” Brown — an emergency treatment for known or suspected opioid overdose — the suit notes that naloxone was “not readily available at the jail.”
Brown was transported a short distance to Page Memorial Hospital about 5:14 p.m., according to the suit, where he had return of spontaneous circulation before undergoing “seven to  minutes of cardiac arrest with administration of epinephrine, narcan and sodium bicarbonate in the emergency department before he sustained a pulse.” A little over an hour later, he arrived at the intensive care unit at Winchester Medical Center, where he survived on a ventilator for about 24 hours before he was pronounced dead.
The three counts actually filed in the lawsuit against all six defendants include:
- Count I — Negligence / Wrongful Death;
- Count II — Gross Negligence / Wrongful Death;
- Count III — Willful and Wanton Negligence / Wrongful Death.
The lawsuit alleges that, “While incarcerated, Mr. Brown was receiving medication for his depression to include fluoxetine (proznac), mirtazapine (remeron), and quetiapine (seroquel), medication to prevent and control seizures, namely gabapentin (neurontin), and various other medications to address pain, muscle spasms and inflammation from injuries sustained on Aug. 24, 2020.”
The suit claims that guards “failed to conduct physical rounds and check cells” for three hours preceding the overdose “despite Mr. Brown’s known medical and mental health condition.” It also notes that jail protocol requires rounds and cell checks every two hours.
According to statements in the lawsuit, inmate Ronald Creel, currently being held on multiple felony charges including drug charges, brought the fentanyl into the jail that killed Brown.
When asked for comment by Page Valley News, Sherriff Cubbage responded, “Due to policy and advice of counsel, I am unable to make any comment about pending litigation. I look forward to speaking with you in the future in reference to this matter.”
PVN also requested comment from the county, but received no response.
The lawsuit demands a jury trial for its claims of “reckless disregard for [Brown’s] health and safety,” insufficient training and supervision, “failing to keep illegal and dangerous substances out of the Page County Jail,” and “failing to respond to medical emergencies in a timely fashion” and “ensure availability of emergency medical equipment and treatments.”
The $1.85 million lawsuit seeks a $1.5 million judgment, plus $350,000 to cover legal fees and punitive damages. The suit claims that Brown’s beneficiaries “have suffered, and will continue to suffer…” and have “incurred hospital, doctors’, and related bills, as well as funeral expenses.”
The suits also states, “As likely evidence of its recognized failures, in the months following the events described herein, the Page County Sheriff’s Office posted a video of a drug overdose on Facebook in an attempt to raise ‘awareness to the real and present danger of fentanyl’ and stated that ‘[their] deputies carry Naloxone, and are trained to administer Naloxone when there is a suspicion of an opioid overdose.”
The plaintiff is being represented by Kelly A. Cournoyer of the Toscano Law Group in Virginia Beach.