RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Despite what a jury awarded the plaintiff in a civil claim against Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, the county will pay $1.3 million less.
The S.C. Tort Claims Act places a financial cap on what's paid in a single occurrence, stating the most to be paid for any action is $300,000. The jury awarded plaintiff Kay Paschal $1.6 million in actual damages from Lott, but because of the state Act, Paschal will see less than half of that money.
The lawsuit was brought against Lott in his official capacity as sheriff for Richland County. However, the county is self-insured, according county spokeswoman Beverly Harris. It has been since July 2005.
Paschal filed the lawsuit in 2012 after she said she was targeted by Jeffrey Wallace and Elizabeth Wallace – children of the late David Wallace, who was the plaintiff's common law spouse, according to court documents. Paschal claimed that Jeffrey and Elizabeth did "everything in their power to harm the plaintiff and to force the plaintiff to drop her claim to be the common law spouse."
The Wallace children contacted Richland County Lt. Heidi Scott to bring charges against the plaintiff for purchasing a handicapped accessible van for $63,300. Scott is a victims advocate for RCSD and investigator for financial exploitation and forgery acts, including financial exploitation of vulnerable adults, according to court documents.
The van was purchased in spring 2010 while David was alive, and Paschal used power of attorney to help David in purchasing the van and trading his car, court documents said. Court documents explained David, 88, had two strokes in 2010 at which time Paschal said she had to care for him until he died in February 2011.
Scott took the children's case to the Lexington County Sheriff's Department, since it was outside of her jurisdiction. Court documents explain that the Lexington County investigators "thoroughly investigated the transaction" and determined the plaintiff didn't do anything wrong.
That didn't stop Scott.
"In excess of her authority, without adequate investigation; without probable cause; and armed with nothing but baseless conclusions of law, the defendant Heidi Scott did stray out of her jurisdiction and secure an illegal arrest warrant against the plaintiff," court documents said.
Paschal was arrested in November 2011 for breach of trust and forgery.
"The purpose of the prosecution was not to prosecute the plaintiff for any activity regarding the van transaction," the court file said. "The purpose was to cause the plaintiff to be arrested, so she would be incapable of appearing at a Probate Court appearance" to pursue her claim as David's common law wife.
Paschal was incarcerated and suspended as a member of the S.C. Bar Association, and she could no longer practice law. The charges were later dismissed in January 2012 for lack of probable cause, court documents said.
Richland County denied all allegations, and attempts by WIS to reach Lott and attorney Patrick Frawley were unsuccessful.
Comment from Paschal's attorney Jake Moore was not received as of this story.
The judge granted both parties 10 days from Friday to file post-trial motions.