Government says it was not at fault for slayings by nursing assistant at W.Va. VA hospital

Government attorneys have responded with their initial defense in lawsuits filed over the murders of veterans at the VA hospital in Clarksburg.

Felix McDermott

This week, lawyers for the federal government filed responses to lawsuits filed by the families of veterans Felix McDermott and George Shaw. 

The families of those veterans have accused the Veterans Administration and the Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center in Clarksburg of being too lax in their oversight when former nursing assistant Reta Mays injected patients with fatal doses of insulin.

In one of the responses, lawyers for the federal government contend “this defendant states that Reta P. Mays acted outside the scope of her employment and that the United States is not liable for the criminal misconduct of Reta P. Mays.”

Reta Mays

Mays pleaded guilty earlier this month in the killings of seven veterans and the attempted killing of another.

Her plea agreement indicates she had unique access to veterans as she worked the overnight shift on a floor meant for veterans who were seriously ill but not in bad enough condition for the intensive care unit. She was supposed to watch over them until morning.

Instead, the plea agreement outlines, she was injecting the veterans with insulin to make their blood sugar crash. Most were not diabetic, and those who were diabetic were in the hospital to seek treatment for other health conditions. None were on the verge of death when they checked in.

The VA hospital is accused of providing lax oversight and turning a blind eye to the mounting deaths under similar circumstances.

Air Force veteran George Shaw died unexpectedly in 2018 at the VA hospital in Clarksburg. His family says his death was a homicide. He is shown here with his wife, Norma.

The 18 defenses delineated by federal lawyers in the Shaw lawsuit are general in nature, often just denying the accusations or contending the VA Hospital can’t be held accountable for Mays’ actions.

“This defendant cannot be held vicariously or otherwise liable for any conduct of its employees which is beyond the scope of their employment with the United States, and any claims based on such conduct should be dismissed,” the lawyers wrote.

The Shaw lawsuit has been assigned to Senior Judge Irene Keeley in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia.

Keeley, who has already denied a motion to dismiss the case, set an August 11 scheduling conference.

The McDermott case is before U.S. District Judge Thomas Kleeh in the Northern District of West Virginia.

Kleeh has set a settlement conference for Sept. 2 and has a trial date set for Sept. 21.

The defenses the government lays out in the McDermott case align with those in the Shaw case, contending “the acts complained of in the Complaint were the proximate result of the negligence of others and not this defendant.”





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