Family of DeKalb jail recruit may have waited too long to file lawsuit

The family had two years to sue the government, but the issue in the case is when the clock started ticking.

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — The family of the humiliated DeKalb County jail recruit who died while trying to become a jailer may have waited too long to file their lawsuit against the county.

George Ward died in May of 2013.  The attorneys representing his sons filed a $20 million lawsuit in September.

Georgia law requires citizens to notify the government within a year if they plan to sue, and they must file that suit within two years.

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Ward's sons’ attorneys do not believe the statute of limitations has expired.

They contend the suit is valid because their clients learned about the alleged fraud connected to Ward's death in fall of 2014.

"They had up until May 22, 2015, to file this lawsuit and they filed it in September 2015, and I think that will be the biggest hurdle for them," civil attorney Tricia Solomon said. She is not connected to the case.

Solomon said when the attorneys alerted the county they may sue is also a factor. The attorneys filed the notice in February.

The video Channel 2 Action News uncovered shows leaders forced Ward to wear pink and pushed him so hard he needed help walking.

Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Erica Byfield played the footage for the county medical examiner.  Once top officials in the ME's Office reviewed it, they changed Ward's cause of death from natural causes to undetermined.

We have learned attorneys representing the defendants in the civil case filed two motions.

A DeKalb County attorney is representing the county and the medical examiner.

Personnel with connections to the Sheriff's Office secured a private attorney.

DeKalb County's attorney filed a motion to dismiss. It references the statute of limitations and several types of immunity.

The private attorney filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings. It also mentions the statute of limitations and the workers compensation benefits Ward's family has received.

Personnel in the Sheriff's Office believe since Ward's family is receiving workers compensation benefits they should not be entitled to seek any other damages.

Solomon told Byfield she believes Ward's family has an uphill fight.  Even so, she added she believes the family made valid points in their suit.

"I think there were a lot of misrepresentations on the part of the Sheriff's Office, and based on the way that the evidence came out, it does appear there is some kind of cover-up," Solomon said.

Ward's sons' attorneys are expected to file a response within a matter of weeks.