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Jail Prisoner’s Death Results in $1 Million Judgment against Texas County

On October 22, 2015, a federal jury awarded $1 million to the survivors and estate of a prisoner who died in a Texas jail, finding jail employees were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs.

Terry Lynn Borum, 53, was booked into the Swisher County jail on January 28, 2013. He had previously been wounded by a shotgun blast during a suicide attempt that left his face disfigured and his speech difficult to understand. He had to be fed through a feeding tube. Additionally, he was mentally ill, depressed and alcoholic – conditions that led to his initial suicide attempt.

Due to the small size of the local community, Borum’s history and unique medical needs were well known. After his arrest he began to suffer from delirium tremens (DTs) – a serious and potentially fatal medical condition. The only response of jail personnel was to give him sips of orange juice and honey. After three days without food he collapsed in his cell, striking his head so hard it rendered him unconscious. He was transported to a hospital where he was diagnosed with a subdural hematoma, and died later that day.

Prior to his collapse, Borum spent the entire night talking to an “invisible friend,” hallucinating and suffering alcohol withdrawal-induced convulsions. He pounded on the door of his detox cell begging to be let out, and tried to “crawl” through the cell door’s food tray slot.

Borum’s two adult children and father filed a civil rights action in federal court against Swisher County alleging deliberate indifference to Borum’s serious medical needs and pendent state law torts. The claims included an allegation that county officials, including the commissioners court and county judge, knew the jail had problems but failed to correct them. The lawsuit alleged an “official county policy” of deliberate indifference.

Amazingly, when asked about Borum only receiving orange juice and honey, and his auditory hallucinations, convulsions and cries for help being ignored, Cody Grubb, the sheriff at the time of Borum’s death, stated in a deposition, “Well sir, I wouldn’t have done anything different than what I did.”

The federal jury found the county had been deliberately indifferent to Borum’s serious medical needs and awarded $250,000 to each of his surviving children, $400,000 to his father and $100,000 to his estate for conscious pain and suffering, for a total of $1 million. Attorneys Jeff Edwards and Scott Medlock, who represented the plaintiffs, then moved for $500,000 in attorney fees. The parties reached a settlement as to damages and attorney fees following mediation, according to a notice filed with the district court on July 29, 2016. See: Estate of Borum v. Swisher County, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Tex.), Case No. 2:14-cv-00127-BB.

Additional sources: Texas Lawyer,

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Related legal case

Estate of Borum v. Swisher County