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Texas Jail Whistleblower Awarded $3.3 Million

On January 26, 1999, the Lubbock county commissioners court approved a $3.3 million settlement with fired jailer Karen Strube. Strube was a jail guard in the Lubbock County jail in Texas. She complained to the Texas Department of Health (DOH) that she had been required to clean the jail with chemicals that burned her hands and arms.

Jail officials retaliated against Strube by suspending her from work, giving her unpleasant work assignments and eventually firing her. An Austin jury found these actions were in retaliation for Strube's complaint to the DOH. The jury then awarded Strube $1.8 million in damages and the trial court awarded her $752,000 in attorney fees. The county fought the case all the way to the Texas supreme court. In the meantime, the damage and attorney fee awards accumulated interest. Strube's attorney, Kevin Glasheen, observed: "If you decide you want to fight something to the bitter end, it's going to be expensive. The legal fees would have been insignificant if they had tried to settle early on."

County commissioner Gilbert Flores, who approved the settlement, said "I feel like $3.3 million has just been flushed down the toilet." He did not clarify if he thought it was the jail officials who did the flushing by retaliating against Strube, Strube for filing the lawsuit or the county's attorney who didn't settle the case early on.

Dallas Morning News

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