Horry County jury awards $3.5M to family of patient who drowned himself after release

Horry County jury awards $3.5M to family of patient who drowned himself after release
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HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – A multi-million-dollar verdict was returned for the Horry County family of a man who drowned himself in the ocean soon after being released from the hospital in 2015.

According to court documents, a Horry County jury rendered a $3,500,250 verdict against Southern Myrtle Inpatient Services, for the family of 26-year-old Matthew Scheer.

In addition to SMIS, doctors Nirlep Patel, Rachel Ash-Bernal and Grand Strand Regional Medical Center were also named as defendants in the lawsuit, although the verdict was only against the medical group.

Court documents state that Scheer arrived at GSMC on Oct. 2, 2015 due to a psychiatric episode and was accompanied by his father, David.

Scheer was evaluated by Patel and admitted to the hospital. While there, he admitted that he had not taken his anti-epileptic prescription Keppra, which is used to prevent seizures, for several days, according to court records. He also was reportedly suffering from anorexia due to hallucinations that his food was being poisoned.

After Scheer’s admission, his father left the hospital. A short time later, the patient expressed a desire to leave. Ash-Bernal signed discharge instructions allowing him to leave “against medical advice,” court records state.

Soon after leaving, Scheer was seen running into the Atlantic Ocean during a violent storm and drowned, according to court documents.

Both Patel and Ash-Bernal were listed as agents of Southern Myrtle Inpatient Services and that the group is liable for the doctors’ negligence, court records state.

During the five-day trial, which ran May 20 to May 24, the jury unanimously found that SMIS was “100% at fault,” while also finding no fault against Patel and Ash-Bernal.

“The jury unanimously found, by clear and convincing evidence, that Defendant Southern Myrtle Inpatient Services, LLC’s conduct was done in a grossly negligent, willful, wanton, or reckless manner,” according to court documents.

GSMC reached a $600,000 settlement with Scheer’s family on Aug. 29, 2018. It will be applied to the $3,500,000 in actual damages, reducing the judgment in favor of Scheer’s estate to $2,900,000, according to a court order filed June 6.

In December 2017, the plaintiff offered to settle with SMIS for $1 million, court documents stated. The defendant did not accept that offer of judgment and the case moved to trial.

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