$365k settlement approved in wrongful death case for woman who died at Portsmouth City Jail

Kendra Nelson (left) and her mother Lynda Johnston_711795

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The mother of a woman who died in custody at the Portsmouth jail has reached a settlement in a federal wrongful death lawsuit against former sheriff Bill Watson, the jail’s medical contractor and several other people involved in the death.

The settlement in the lawsuit — Lynda Johnston v. Watson et al. — is $365,000, according to an order approving the settlement dated Jan. 17.

According to the federal lawsuit, 23-year-old Kendra Nelson was in custody at the Portsmouth City Jail when she died in July 2016.

The original lawsuit, which was first filed in Portsmouth Circuit Court, claimed Correct Care Solutions medical and jail personnel told Nelson she was just “dope sick” and faking her symptoms, and a nurse checked her and determined nothing was wrong.

Nelson began frothing at the mouth and was soon pronounced dead, less than 24 hours after she was booked into the jail. The medical examiner said Nelson died of pericarditis, a condition that affects the lining of the heart.

This case was moved to federal court shortly after it was filed in Portsmouth Circuit Court.

According to court documents, $115,000 will be paid on behalf of the sheriff and eight other defendants.

$250,000 will be paid on behalf of Correct Care Solutions and three others. Those four will pay up to $10,000 in “documented expenses.”

$42,583.33 will go to each of the three participating legal firms for services rendered.

An additional $11,242.70 will be paid to one of the three law firms for legal costs.

$25,000 will go to Iyllah Rain Godwin’s guardian and grandmother, Johnston, who filed the suit.

The remaining $211,007.31 will be invested. When Godwin turns 18, she will be given the money and accrued interest, documents state.

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