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$400,000 Settlement in Oklahoma Jail Failure to Protect Suit

On April 19, 2001, the insurer for the Garfield county jail in Oklahoma agreed to pay $400,000 to a former jail prisoner who was attacked and beaten by his cellmate. On April 26, 1998, Larry Thomas, then 58, was imprisoned in the Garfield county jail for five days to serve a sentence of driving while impaired. Thomas was attacked and severely beaten by his cellmate, Brett Overfelt. Thomas now resides in a nursing home and he suffered long term, permanent injury.

Thomas filed suit in federal court claiming that jail officials failed to protect him from attack. The county's insurance company settled the case shortly before it was scheduled to go to trial by paying Thomas $400,000 in damages. In September 2000, Overfelt pleaded no contest to four felony counts of assault related to his attack on Thomas and was sentenced to five years in prison.

The Garfield county jail is usually overcrowded and lacks segregation space. The jail has also been cited for repeated violations by state jail inspectors. Attorney Mark Hammons represented Thomas. In a statement to media, Hammons said another of his clients, Jeremy Birchfield, had settled a lawsuit for $150,000 over injuries he sustained while in the jail. On July 1, 2001, the county lost its liability insurance.

Source: The Oklahoman

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