The family of a man shot to death by a police officer after a slow-speed car chase has settled awrongful death suit with North Augusta police and Edgefield County officials for nearly $1.2 million. According to a report, the deceased individual, Ernest Satterwhite, was shot by Justin Craven, an officer in North Augusta, who chased him for nine miles into Edgefield County before shooting him to death after the man stopped in the driveway of his home.
Settlements of Wrongful Death Suits in South Carolina
Wrongful death is a statutory cause of action in South Carolina and is defined as death that is caused by the “wrongful act, neglect, or default of another.” Essentially, the type of act that causes the wrongful death would be something that the victim would have been able to file a personal injury claim for, if he or she had survived. Wrongful death suits must be filed within three years of the death of the victim.
Additionally, South Carolina law provides survival provisions that enables legal representatives of a deceased individual to recover damages for injuries. The executor or administrator of the deceased victim’s estate may bring the wrongful death action in court on behalf of surviving family members, which can include the surviving spouse and children, the surviving parents, or other heirs at law if there are no immediate family members. Damages in a wrongful death action brought by survivors include recovery for the deceased individual’s conscious pain and suffering, lost wages and benefits, property damages and other financial losses related to the death, emotional distress, medical expenses, and funeral and burial costs. Additionally, South Carolina courts may also award punitive damages if the conduct that caused the death was deliberate or reckless.
Only duly-appointed personal representatives can settle a wrongful death action. If no claim has been filed in court, then the representative has to petition a court for approval of a proposed settlement. The settlement must describe the facts surrounding the death, supporting facts regarding the liability of the alleged wrongdoer, any insurance available, specific terms, and the beneficiaries and amount of their claims. South Carolina courts will schedule hearings to evaluate the settlement and issue an order either approving or disapproving the proposed settlement. Once the agreement is approved and payment has been made to the personal representatives, the party making the payment is discharged from any further liability and has no obligation so proper distribution of the settlement proceeds. To have agreements properly written and discharged, parties should seek the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney.
In this case, Edgefield county deputies joined the chase once Craven and Satterwhite entered the county. Craven ran to Satterwhite’s parked car and fired his gun at the driver’s side door. According to the lawsuit filed by the surviving family, the Edgefield deputies ordered Craven to cease and let them handle the chase when they entered the county, but Craven refused to follow orders. While Craven alleged that Satterwhite tried to grab his gun, the family contends that Satterwhite never did so, and Craven’s act of shooting him five times was unjustified. Then, the lawsuit indicates that the officers yanked Satterwhite from the car after he was mortally wounded, restrained him, and left him on the ground until paramedics arrived. A criminal action remains pending in court against Craven.