Kentucky Woman’s Estate Sues Police, Claims Wrongful Death

June 16, 2011

The estate of a Lexington homicide victim is suing the city police, claiming wrongful death.

Umi Southworth died a year ago and authorities charged her husband with murder.

In a lawsuit filed Friday by Fayette County Public Administrator Dennis A. Bradley on behalf of the couple’s 13-year-old daughter, the estate claims police left Umi Southworth lying outside while they questioned Donald Southworth Jr. about his wife’s beating.

The lawsuit claims police acted in a “reckless, wanton and egregious manner” by failing to realize the victim was still alive, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

When a coroner’s office employee found that Southworth was alive, she was taken to a hospital, but died the next day.

Donald Southworth pleaded not guilty to a murder charge on June 3.

City spokeswoman Susan Straub declined to comment on the lawsuit.

It seeks an undetermined amount of money for compensatory and punitive damages. It cites lost wages and loss of the power to earn money on behalf of Umi Southworth, as well as “the loss of parental love, affection, companionship and consortium” on behalf of her daughter. It also seeks damages for “mental and physical pain, suffering and anguish.”

Officers found Southworth badly beaten in some bushes near her home last year while investigating a report that she did not make it to work. She was injured so badly officers thought she was dead.

“She laid out there for five hours in the rain while the police interrogated her husband,” Morgan said.

Don Southworth wasn’t charged in her death until June 1 – the same day he filed a petition to become administrator of her estate.

Instead, court documents show Bradley, a Lexington attorney, was appointed administrator of the estate.

“Because of the criminal charges, the court deemed that would not be prudent” for Don Southworth to claim wrongful death damages, Morgan said.

Umi Southworth, a native of Indonesia, had little money, no will and no family in Kentucky except for her husband and daughter, Morgan said.

“The decedent’s estate consists primarily of an unliquidated claim for wrongful-death damages,” probate court documents said.

Fayette County Coroner’s office officials were allowed to examine her body and found she was alive, the document said. It says police did not check Southworth for vital signs.

Police have said they made mistakes in their response and the department implemented a new policy that requires paramedics to be called to the scene of every apparent homicide to check for life signs.

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.