Skip navigation

Jackson, Mississippi Pays $300,000 to Settle Jail Wrongful Death Suit

by Dale Chappell

The City Council in Jackson, Mississippi approved a payment of $300,000 on October 4, 2018 to settle a wrongful death claim after the family of a man who died in the city jail filed a lawsuit in federal court.

The case involved Jamaal Mallard, who was booked into the Jackson City Jail in October 2015 for allegedly stealing a lawnmower. Just hours later he was found in his cell, dead from a cocaine overdose.

Nanette Mallard, Jamaal’s mother, sued on behalf of her son and his heirs. Jamaal was 29 years old when he died. After he turned himself in to police, he was shackled and handcuffed, and his hands chained to his waist. He was then placed in a holding cell and left for hours. That was just before 4 a.m.

About two hours later, the oncoming shift saw Mallard facedown on the floor in a “sleep position,” according to jail records. Nobody attempted to check whether he was actually sleeping. At just after 7 a.m., guards went to get Mallard to be released. They then discovered he was unresponsive; 15 minutes later, staff called for an ambulance.

The lawsuit claimed the guards “negligently failed to use a reasonably established standard of care” by not adequately observing Mallard and responding to his health problems. The guards’ “reckless disregard” for his condition violated his constitutional rights, the complaint said.

Mallard’s family asked for “at least $500,000” in the lawsuit, plus other damages under state law. “Simply put, if someone would have opened the door, or even spoken out to Mallard, or even looked more than once in three and a half hours of incarceration, Mallard may still be alive today.” 

The Jackson City Council, on the advice of the city attorney, agreed to settle the case for $300,000. They did not admit fault but agreed to make policy changes at the jail: Prisoners will no longer be shackled inside cells, and staff will monitor them and keep a monitoring log.

During a news conference, Mallard’s mother said that while money cannot replace her son, she’s grateful the lawsuit resulted in reforms at the jail. See: Mallard v. City of Jackson, U.S.D.C. (S.D. Miss.), Case No. 3:17-cv-00216-CWR-FKB. 

---

Additional source: clarionledger.com

Related legal case

Mallard v. City of Jackson