Family Awarded $82m in What Was Described as the ‘Largest Standing Civil Rights Death Claim Verdict in US History’


On February 24, a federal jury awarded $82 million to the family of an Oklahoma woman who died in jail. According to Fox 23, the plaintiff’s lawyer stated that Gwendolyn Young died alone in a cell at the Tulsa County jail in 2013 while suffering from severe and life-threatening health concerns.

According to the case, which was filed against Correctional Healthcare Companies, Inc. (CHC), Young was not taken to the hospital for treatment despite the severity of her condition. Prior to her death, the deceased inmate had been incarcerated for almost a year. During her medical crisis, Young told a jail staff member that she was vomiting blood, according to Tulsa World. However, the staffer responded that the blood was “insufficient” and looked like Kool-Aid.

Daniel Smolen, who is the attorney for Young’s daughter Deborah Young, said the deceased Black woman had displayed multiple symptoms including “signs of respiratory distress, days of vomiting blood and not eating, changes in mental status, dizziness, unresponsiveness, unsteady gait, difficulty walking, and falling.”

Smolen reportedly said Young “predicted her own death” while imprisoned in Tulsa County. “On December 3, 2012, Ms. Young woke up in the Prison’s Special Housing Unit and told an officer on duty that she ‘was not going to make it in Jail….'” Smollen continued. Ms. Young recognized that her critical medical needs would not be met because of the culture of apathy that pervaded the Prison under Correctional Healthcare Company, LLC. (“CHC”). Her gloomy prediction became tragically accurate.” She passed away in February of 2013.

According to Fox 23, Deborah Young was granted $14 million in compensatory damages and $68 million in punitive penalties. According to Smolen, the reward is “believed to be the largest standing civil rights death claim decision in American history,” and it is a “tribute to Deborah’s loving mother, Gwendolyn Young.”

And though a lawyer representing CHC sympathized with Young’s family, he said they were exploring the possibility of appealing the verdict. “Correctional Health Care Companies is nonetheless disappointed with the verdict, which we do not believe reflects the facts of the matter. We are exploring the next steps, including appeal. We hold patients at the center of everything we do,” Attorney Sean P. Snider said. “We take the responsibility of providing medical services seriously and will continue to work diligently to ensure that we meet and exceed industry standards. We remain focused on the health and well-being of our patients and their care remains our top priority.”

In a statement, the Tulsa County Jail also said, “This incident occurred in 2013, under the leadership of TCSO’s previous administration. This is the last lawsuit that remained unresolved from that era.

Since Sheriff Regalado took Office in 2016, the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office has changed jail medical providers, instituted the use of new technology, and mandated additional training to ensure the proper medical and mental health care of inmates at the Tulsa county jail.”

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