Westmoreland County, jail warden dismissed as defendants in federal lawsuit

Paul Peirce
| Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Westmoreland County and jail Warden John Walton were dismissed as defendants in an ongoing federal lawsuit filed by the widow of a notorious criminal who committed suicide in the lockup in 2010.

A mutual agreement was reached Tuesday by survivors of the late David W. McGinnis of Bolivar and by lawyers for the county and Walton.

As a result, only the county's former health-care vendor, NaphCare of Birmingham, Ala., remains a defendant in the civil lawsuit.

The lawsuit filed a year ago by McGinnis' widow, Denise P. McGinnis, and their sons, Dustin and David L. McGinnis, claimed McGinnis, 44, “was left for an unreasonable amount of time the date of his suicide with a razor without sufficient supervision where the county, Walton and/or NaphCare should have known of Mr. McGinnis' increased risk of suicide.”

Greensburg attorney John Greiner, who represented the county and Walton, said the agreement to dismiss all claims against the county and Walton was reached during mediation.

According to the petition, to prove liability against either the county or Walton, the McGinnises would have had to prove the county and Walton acted with deliberate indifference to McGinnis' rights and implemented a deficient policy for suicide-risk screening and failed to train employees with respect to suicide-risk screening.

“It became clear that asserting liability would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, and it was agreed upon by all parties to dismiss the claims against the county and Mr. Walton,” Greiner said.

The lawsuit alleged that before his suicide, McGinnis had been depressed over the death of his mother in January 2010 and needed thyroid medication. The lawsuit also disclosed that McGinnis had attempted suicide when he was on the run from authorities for three months in the spring of 2010.

McGinnis fled on March 15, 2010, when he discovered troopers were going to arrest him in connection with a $25,000 insurance fraud involving a restored “monster truck” he owned.

In 2008, McGinnis reported the truck was stolen at Galleria Mall near Johnstown. He collected insurance on it, but police later discovered he was hiding the vehicle inside a garage at the residence of his sister, Wendy, in Homer City, Indiana County.

Police later accused McGinnis, who had a 30-plus year criminal record, of harassment and intimidating witnesses in the insurance-fraud case by setting fire to a home of one witness and laying in wait with a rifle outside another informant's residence.

McGinnis avoided capture until May 28, hiding out in the woods and fleeing to Greene County, Canada and South Carolina before he was captured by federal marshals in Columbia, S.C. Police said he was assisted while on the lam by family members and friends.

Some community members supported McGinnis' run from the law and began sporting T-shirts and car placards with “Run Dave Run” emblazoned on them.

McGinnis was returned to the county jail on June 11. He committed suicide four days later on the morning of his first scheduled court appearance.

The McGinnises are represented by Greensburg attorney Michael DeMatt.

NaphCare no longer provides medical care for inmates. The company was replaced by Wexford Correctional Health Care of Allegheny County.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or ppeirce@tribweb.com.

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