Conn faces wrongful death lawsuit after client suicide

PRESTONSBURG — A new lawsuit filed in Floyd Circuit Court this week has shed more light on the tragic events surrounding a former Eric C. Conn client who committed suicide in depression over losing his Social Security disability benefits.

According to the lawsuit, Leroy Burchett, 41, of Ivel, had suffered debilitating injuries six years ago that required surgery and a metal plate placed in his neck. Burchett went to Conn’s law firm to obtain disability benefits, and was awarded them in the amount of $1,063 monthly.

Crucially, the lawsuit makes clear that at no point did the Burchetts have cause to suspect any type of fraud was being perpetrated by Conn’s office or the four doctors named in the SSA’s suspension letters.

Burchett received his notice around May 22, and for the next week, the lawsuit says, he “began to limit and eventually ceased taking all of his prescribed medications, including his anti-depressants. He then lapsed into a deep dark depression directly as a result of learning that his sole source of economic support and medical coverage was suddenly gone.”

On June 1, a despondent Burchett “stated he ‘could not take it anymore,’” and attempted suicide with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The suit says he did not die until around two hours later at Pikeville Medical Center.

Burchett’s sudden and tragic death nearly two weeks ago was quickly brought to light by his widow, Emma Burchett, who told attorney Ned Pillersdorf to disseminate the news in the hopes that it would prevent others from doing the same. Pillersdorf, who volunteered to represent the 900 who received suspension letters in separate class action lawsuits against Conn and the Social Security Administration, urged his clients to continue their medication and seek out help if necessary.

On the afternoon of Thursday, June 4, the office of Rep. Hal Rogers announced that negotiations with the Social Security Administration were successful in getting the suspended benefits restored until individual hearings can be held. Funeral services for Burchett were held June 5.

The wrongful death lawsuit is being filed by attorneys Ned Pillersdorf and Noah Friend against Eric C. Conn and his law office, on behalf of plaintiffs Emma Burchett, the estate of Leroy Burchett, and Leroy Burchett’s three minor children.

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