New York Times Reports on $6.75 Million Settlement in Jail Death Case

The New York Times has published an article concerning a $6.75 million settlement arising from the in-custody death of Terrill Thomas in the Milwaukee County Jail. Budge & Heipt was part of the legal team representing Mr. Thomas’s estate.

From the New York Times, May 29, 2019:

Family of Abused Milwaukee Inmate Will Receive $6.75 Million

Terrill Thomas, at left, with Terrill Barnes, his son, in an undated photo. Mr. Thomas died of dehydration in a Milwaukee jail in 2016.CreditCreditKimberly Perry, via Associated Press

The children of Terrill Thomas, who died of dehydration in a Milwaukee jail in 2016 after correctional officers turned off his cell’s water supply for a week, will receive $6.75 million in a settlement with Milwaukee County and Armor Correctional Health Services, a private company that provided health care at the jail.

The settlement, reached in the Eastern District of Wisconsin, ends a federal civil rights lawsuit by Mr. Thomas’s estate, which includes four minor children, and a separate federal suit filed by one of his children. Erik Heipt, a lawyer for the estate, said it was the largest settlement of its kind in Wisconsin history, and among the largest in the country.

“The amount of the settlement reflects the callous disregard for Terrill Thomas’s life and the magnitude of his pain and suffering,” he said.

Mr. Heipt said he hoped it would send a message to jail operators that “if you ignore the Constitution and act with deliberate indifference to the lives of inmates, there will be a price to pay.”

Mr. Thomas, 38, was arrested on April 15, 2016, on charges that he had shot a man and later fired two gunshots inside a casino. Mr. Thomas had bipolar disorder and was unable to be an advocate for himself in the jail or take his prescribed medication, Mr. Heipt said.

Mr. Thomas was moved to an isolation cell after flooding his first cell by stuffing a mattress cover into the toilet, according to prosecutors.

In what prosecutors described as punishment for flooding the first cell, a jail lieutenant, Kashka Meadors, told a correctional officer, James Ramsey-Guy, to turn off the water supply to Mr. Thomas’s new one.

The water was never turned back on, and Mr. Thomas was not given any drinks with his food. He was found dead in his cell on April 24.

Ms. Meadors pleaded no contest last year to a felony charge of prisoner abuse and was sentenced to 60 days in prison, according to The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Mr. Ramsey-Guy was sentenced in March to 30 days in prison on a charge of abusing a resident of a penal facility, a felony.

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