A judge in the wrongful death suit filed by the estate of Lukisha Thomas has ordered the S.C. Department of Social Services to turn over any records pertaining to Thomas and her children, according to Aiken County court records.
Thomas died last year after being struck by a vehicle while walking on the sidewalk of York Street with her boyfriend, Ray Charles Wooden Jr., and their 2-year-old son.
The driver of the vehicle, Aiken attorney Tom Woodruff Jr., was charged with careless driving. Thomas’ sister, Maria Saxon, has since filed a wrongful-death suit against Woodruff as a representative of Thomas’ estate.
On March 31, Woodruff and his attorney presented a motion for a court order requiring DSS to provide the defense with “any and all records” pertaining to Thomas and her children within 20 days, according to a consent order filed on April 1.
Amanda Whittle, an attorney for Aiken County DSS, filed a motion to alter or amend on April 10 in which she states the order is “not in compliance” with S.C. Code of Laws Section 63-7-1990, which “sets forth specific requirements for how and to whom records are to be released.”
“Specifically, [the law] requires that, in a situation such as this, the Court would review the records of indicated cases in camera, determine what information is legally relevant and necessary for the determination of the issues before the court, and then issue a protective order releasing that information,” the document stated.
On March 31, Mt. Pleasant attorney Ladson Howell Jr. filed a memorandum on behalf of Saxon in support of a motion he filed on March 6, which asks for an order compelling Woodruff “to produce responses to Plaintiff’s First Set of Interrogatories and the Plaintiff’s First Set of Request for Production.”
According to the memo, Saxon requested five years of Woodruff’s state and federal tax returns. The first set of Requests for Production filed by plaintiffs requested current financial documents demonstrating Woodruff’s “net worth,” copies of Woodruff’s state and federal tax returns for the past five years and “any and all documentation which reflects any and all rental income” for the past five years.
Howell argues in the memo that Woodruff has offered no argument or reason for why he hasn’t responded to the plaintiff’s request. He also argued that Saxon is not required to obtain a punitive damages verdict at trial in order to trigger Woodruff’s obligation to respond to the request.
Woodruff has argued that Saxon is not entitled to his financial information because she has not made a prima facie – “at first look” – showing of entitlement to a punitive damages award.
Howell wrote that Woodruff pleading guilty to careless driving and paying the fine last year would make it “proper for a jury to consider punitive damages.”
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012. He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies.