CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Prestera Center has agreed to pay $1 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that workers at the center's Dunbar inebriation shelter caused a man's death by failing to notice that he had overdosed on cocaine and other drugs.
The family of Dustin Hill, 24, sued Prestera and the city of Dunbar after Hill died in the fall of 2009. Dunbar officials, named in the lawsuit because Dunbar police took Hill to the shelter without testing him for alcohol, have not agreed to a settlement and are still scheduled to stand trial in Kanawha Circuit Court later this year.
On Sept. 16, 2009, Dunbar police dropped Hill off at the Prestera shelter. Staff at the shelter noted that he was "very out of it," but found in later testing that his blood-alcohol content was zero, according to the lawsuit, filed by Charleston lawyer Bobby Warner.
Staff members did not check Hill's vital signs until 2 a.m., though state regulations require staff to check on supposedly inebriated patients at 15-minute intervals. The only documentation of Hill's medical condition, according to the suit, was that he was "snoring loudly" and taking deep breaths.
Hill should have been checked about 30 times during his nine-hour stay at the facility, according to the lawsuit.
Medical examiners declared that Hill had died from an overdose of cocaine, methadone and alprazalom. Staff had also recorded that Hill had taken multiple prescription drugs, including Topal, Xanax, Lortab, Ativan and Seroquel.
Along with the $1 million settlement, Prestera will also provide $20,687 in medical, funeral and other miscellaneous expenses. Hill's father, mother and sister will each receive about $200,000.
The case drew the attention of the state Department of Health and Human Resources, which cited the center for failure to comply with state licensing rules, according to the lawsuit, including a failure to provide adequate staff and a failure to give Hill CPR after he was found without a heartbeat.
Reach Zac Taylor at Zachary.Tay...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.