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Estate notifies prison of lawsuit

HOLLIDAYSBURG — The estate of a Blair County Prison inmate who died July 31, 2017, has given notice of a likely lawsuit against the county prison, its former warden and deputy warden and the company contracted to provide inmate medical care.

A writ of summons notice, initially filed in late July in Allegheny County by the estate of Rodger Vasas, 61, Gallitzin, was recently transferred to Blair County and filed in the prothonotary’s office.

In response to the initial notice, Hollidaysburg attorney Mary Lou Maierhofer made the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas aware that Blair County was not waiving jurisdiction.

Subsequently, Allegheny Coun­ty Judge Robert Colville signed the transfer order in September.

Maierhofer is listed in court documents as the attorney representing the county and its prison, along with former Warden Michael Johnston and former Deputy Warden Randy Pollock. The warden and deputy warden were in charge of the prison when Vasas was found hanging in his jail cell, then transferred to UPMC Altoona where he was pronounced dead.

Pittsburgh attorneys George M. Kontos and Katie Killion, on behalf of Andrew P. Vasas, the administrator of Rodger Vasas’ estate, included no detailed complaint with the writ of summons notice.

“It is believed that the subject matter of this litigation is the death of Rodger Vasas while housed in the Blair County Prison,” Maierhofter stated in the court document declining to waive jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, Blair County has yet to resolve a similar lawsuit with the estate of Samantha Rea Beckwith, a 23-year-old prison inmate found hanging in her cell on Oct. 24, 2016.

That case, on file in the U.S. District Court in Johnstown, alleges that the prison, its staff and its medical care providers failed to recognize Beckwith’s mental health conditions which led to her suicide. While the parties agreed, in April 2018, to try to resolve the case through mediation, subsequent court dockets show no notice of settlement or further proceedings.

Kontos is also on record as the attorney representing Beckwith’s estate, as represented by Samantha Beckwith’s grandmother, Deborah Beckwith.

Court documents in the Beckwith case as well as the Vasas case identify attorney John Ninosky of Camp Hill as the representative for PrimeCare Medical Inc., the company that the county prison depends on to provide inmate medical care.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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