At nearly $3 million, Lincoln County has settled a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of the family of Bradley Thomas, who died while being held in the county jail two years ago. KLCC’s Brian Bull reports.
UPDATED 11/14/17 TO INCLUDE STATEMENT FROM LINCOLN COUNTY (SEE BELOW)
Thomas was brought in on a misdemeanor charge of harassment on March 23rd, 2015. It wasn’t his first time there, but it would be his last. On April 8th he died of dehydration and starvation.
Eugene attorney Jennifer Middleton says Thomas suffered from bipolar disorder with psychosis. Nearly a year after his death, Thomas’ relatives filed suit against Lincoln County. They said jail staff failed to provide adequate care for Thomas, even as they documented his increasingly odd behavior and inability to speak or walk.
“Mr. Thomas had successfully come out of similar kinds of deteriorating spirals in the past," says Middleton.
"And he could have this time. But instead, no one at Lincoln County bothered to provide him the medical care he needed or to get him to a hospital. And that’s a fundamental violation of his civil rights.”
Supporters of the family say they hope the $2.85 million settlement inspires other Oregon jails to better accommodate people with mental health issues.
When contacted by KLCC, the county said it may comment on the settlement later.
STATEMENT FROM LINCOLN COUNTY ON THE DEATH OF BRADLEY THOMAS AND SETTLEMENT:
"Lincoln County has reached a $2.85-million, wrongful-death settlement with the family of Bradley Thomas. Mr. Thomas died of dehydration while in custody at the Lincoln County Jail in 2015. Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office sent their sincere condolences to Mr. Thomas’ family. The County took immediate steps following Mr. Thomas' death to provide staff with additional training. Lincoln County has embraced the Stepping Up Initiative, a national program, which works to reduce the number of individuals with mental illness in local jails. Sadly, Mr. Thomas suffered from a diagnosed mental illness and had just been committed to the Oregon State Hospital one day prior to his death; he remained in custody awaiting a bed at the medical facility. The County is taking the tragic death of Mr. Thomas very seriously and will continue to enhance training for all staff in an effort to greatly reduce the risk of this occurring again."
Copyright 2017, KLCC.