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$3.6 Million Settlement in Michigan Prisoner’s Segregation Cell Death

The family of Timothy Souders has agreed to accept $3.25 to settle a wrongful death claim relating to Timothy’s death. Timothy, 21, was the subject of a May 2007 PLN cover article, and a February 11, 2007, report on 60 Minutes.

Timothy was one of the millions of mentally ill prisoners held by our nation’s prisons. Like many of them, Timothy was experiencing difficulty adjusting to the rigors of prison life. In his first four months in prison, he received seven misconduct reports.

After being charged with “unruly behavior” for taking a shower without permission, prison officials stripped him and four-pointed him to the bed in a small, windowless cell.
Over the next four days, he was chained to the bed for up to 17 hours at a time. Combine those conditions with 106 degree heat, no water in his cell, and the effects of psychotropic medications that prevented his body cooling; and the results were predictable. On August 6, Souders was “found to be unresponsive and without pulse and respiration.” His death was officially caused by dehydration.

Souders’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court on November 21, 2006. That claim was brought against Correctional Medical Services and various Michigan Department of Corrections officials and guards. On June 3, 2008, the parties reached a settlement with the assistance of a facilitator.

The settlement cares for Timothy’s entire family. His father, Steven Souders, receives a structured settlement with a $550,000 cash value and an additional lump sum of $179,538.11. Timothy’s mother, Theresa Vaugh, will receive a structured settlement of $300,000, and a lump sum payment of $429,538.08.

Each of Timothy’s brothers, Kyle, Jacob, and Nicholas, will receive a structured settlement of $200,000. The structured settlements for all of the family members are stated as “cash value,” but the structure will provide significantly larger payouts.

The structured payouts provide for set payments at various times for each family member. While the cash value of those settlements equate to $3.25 million with attorney fees, they actually equal $3.6 million. The structured payments range from monthly to annually to every 5 years.

The Souders family’s lawyers, who are from the Southfield, Michigan law firm of Fieger, Fieger, Kenney, Johnson, and Giroux, will receive $1,191,723.81 in attorney fees and costs. See: Souders v. Burt, USDC, E.D. Michigan, Case No: 2:06-CV-14353.

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Related legal case

Souders v. Burt