Lincoln County has agreed to pay $2.85 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of a mentally ill inmate who died in a county jail cell in 2015.
A judge approved the settlement between the county and Waldport resident Bradley Steven Thomas’ family on Oct. 19, court records show.
READ – Estate of man with mental illness who died in Lincoln County custody files wrongful death lawsuit, Oregonian, April 1, 2016
READ – Lincoln County Jail inmate found dead in his bed, News Lincoln County, (Lincoln County Sheriff Press Release), April 8, 2016
READ – Family Of Mentally-Ill Inmate Who Died In Custody Receives $2.85 Million From Lincoln County, KLCC Radio, November 13, 2017
READ – Family of Mistreated, Deceased Mentally Ill Oregon Inmate Receives $2.85 Million, LegalReader.com, November 17, 2017
Thomas’ family filed the federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Eugene in April 2016, one year after Thomas died while being held in the Lincoln County Jail. He was 55.
Autopsy results indicated Thomas suffered from “significant dehydration” prior to his death on April 8, 2015, according to the lawsuit.
Thomas had spent more than two weeks in custody before he died. He faced charges including attempted first-degree assault, unlawful use of a weapon and menacing.
He stopped eating and drinking while in custody, and it quickly became apparent to jail staff that he had severe mental health problems, his attorneys said in a news release.
One day before Thomas died, a Lincoln County judge ruled that he was mentally ill and ordered him committed to the Oregon State Hospital for up to 180 days, court records say.
Later that night, jail staff saw Thomas lying naked on the floor in his cell, but did not provide any emergency response or request help from mental health professionals, his lawyers said.
Thomas was found dead in the cell the next morning. Attorneys who represent his family in the civil case said that before his death Thomas lost the ability to walk and speak.
“This case shows there is a price to pay when jails treat the mentally ill as disposable,” Eugene attorney Jennifer Middleton said. She and Gresham attorney Tom Melville represent Thomas’ family.
A Lincoln County spokeswoman said Monday that the settlement payment will be made by the county’s insurance provider. She declined to provide additional comment on the case.
According to the court order approving the settlement, nearly $1.8 million will be split between Thomas’ mother and daughter.
Middleton and Melville will receive a combined total of $950,000 to cover attorney fees.
Thomas’ brother, meanwhile, will be paid a $57,232 fee for serving as his sibling’s estate administrator and for pursuing the wrongful death claim.
Attorneys handling the administration of Thomas’ probate case will receive $6,141 in settlement proceeds while Melville and Middleton will be reimbursed $4,075 for court costs.