A Miller County Circuit judge approved a $200,000 settlement Monday in the case of a severely diabetic 20-year-old who died last year at the Bi-State Justice Building jail in Texarkana.
Circuit Judge Carlton Jones granted approval for Little Rock lawyer Matthew Campbell to settle the case against LaSalle Corrections, the company that manages the jail, in the July 1, 2016, death of Morgan Angerbauer.
Angerbauer died of ketoacidosis, a condition that results from extremely high blood sugar, after former licensed vocational nurse Brittany Johnson refused to treat her. Johnson pleaded guilty Nov. 27 to misdemeanor negligent homicide and is serving a three-month term in the Miller County jail.
Jones approved the settlement despite objections from Texarkana lawyer David Carter, who represents Angerbauer's mother, Jennifer Houser. Houser, who said she was contacted by Campbell via Facebook the day after her daughter's death, was initially appointed administrator of her daughter's estate.
When a person has a will, he typically has designated someone to act as executor of his estate to manage and distribute any assets and debts upon his death. When a person does not have a will, someone else, usually a spouse or other family member, can petition the court to be appointed administrator to legally act on matters concerning the estate of the deceased individual.
Angerbauer did not have a will, so Campbell filed a federal civil suit in September 2016 on behalf of Houser as administrator of the estate. Houser, Angerbauer's father and her siblings are not named individually as plaintiffs in the civil suit.
Campbell filed a motion May 26 in the probate case seeking to have Houser removed as administrator of her daughter's estate and replaced with Little Rock lawyer Victoria Leigh. The motion states that Houser expressed a desire to "no longer be involved in any action on behalf of the estate of Morgan Angerbauer," and states that Houser "has taken actions that are in her interests and not in the best interests of the estate."
Houser said she did not learn that she had been replaced as administrator until she was asked about it by an outside party in June. Campbell presented an excerpt from a deposition of Houser taken last month at which she said she told Campbell "at that time" that she didn't want to be involved in estate matters.
Houser said Monday that she was flustered by the questions at her deposition and didn't quite understand what she was being asked. Houser did not learn of the proposed settlement until contacted about it by news media and said she was unaware that being replaced as administrator meant she had no voice in the matter.
Based on the deposition excerpt, Jones declined to allow Carter to take testimony from Houser and would not allow Carter to question Leigh about the case. Leigh testified under questioning from Campbell that she believes the settlement is in the best interest of the estate and asked that she and Campbell be paid from the proceeds if there is a dispute as to how the remainder of the settlement be distributed among Angerbauer's heirs.
Campbell's contract entitles him to 40 percent of the settlement and Leigh is receiving over $6,000 as administrator. The remainder will be divided between Houser and Angerbauer's other heirs.