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Missouri Town Pays $1.2 Million to Settle Lawsuit over Jail Suicide

by Lonnie Burton

On March 13, 2017, the city of Pagedale, Missouri agreed to pay $1.2 million to the family of a woman who hung herself at the city jail two-and-a-half years earlier. The resolution of the case meant that a jury trial scheduled for August 2017 was called off.

The settlement included a confidentiality agreement whereby both parties were limited to saying only that “the matter has been settled,” but court documents obtained by Prison Legal News show the woman who committed suicide at the jail was 21-year-old Kimberlee Randle-King. The single mother of two was taken into custody and booked into Pagedale’s municipal jail on September 19, 2014 for outstanding traffic warrants.

When Randle-King was told she would be held without bond because she had traffic warrants from other jurisdictions, she became “hysterical and uncooperative,” fearing she would lose her job, home and children, according to the lawsuit filed in St. Louis County Circuit Court in July 2015.

Randle-King began to scream and cry, saying she would “die” if jailed. She eventually had to be forcibly placed in a cell by two guards. Less than 90 minutes later, Randle-King had committed suicide; she made a noose out of her shirt and hanged herself using a hole in the unused upper bunk as an anchor point.

The suit claimed that jail deputies failed in their duties to protect Randle-King from harming herself, as each cell was equipped with cameras yet no one monitored the video feed despite Randle-King’s threat to harm herself. According to the complaint, the City of Pagedale was “on notice” about the danger that pre-trial detainees could hang themselves, as a number of other similar suicides had occurred at the jail in recent years. Thus, jail officials were negligent for not only failing to monitor Randle-King, but also for not removing the unused upper bunks that served no purpose and had been used to facilitate suicides in the past.

Randle-King’s mother, Gladys King, filed the wrongful death suit on behalf of herself and her daughter’s two children. The settlement calls for the children to receive two lump-sum payments of $50,000 and $120,000 each in 2035 and 2040, plus $20,000 a year each for four years starting in 2028. They are also guaranteed an additional $1,000 a month for eight years beginning in 2032. King was to receive $370,000, while attorney fees for the family’s lawyer, Justin Meehan, totaled just over $430,000.

For an additional nominal $1.00, the parties agreed not to publicize the terms of the settlement agreement. The funds were paid by the city’s insurer, the Missouri Public Entity Risk Management Fund – a group that insures several municipalities in the state. See: King v. City of Pagedale, St. Louis County Circuit Court (MO), Cause No. 15SL-CCO2519. 

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Related legal case

King v. City of Pagedale