VERDICT: Jury finds in favor of Elliott Williams' family after jail death, awards $10.2M
TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) -- Jurors have awarded the family of Elliott Williams more than $10 million after a wrongful death lawsuit against the Tulsa County Sheriff's Office.
Williams died in the Tulsa County Jail in 2011.
Lawyers for Williams' family argued the sheriff's department violated his civil rights when deputies left him on the jail floor with a broken neck.
After a three-week trial, jurors found in favor of Williams' family, awarding them $10 million from Tulsa County and another $250,000 from former Sheriff Stanley Glanz.
The family's attorney, Dan Smolen, says finding the jail responsible for Williams' death was the only conclusion a jury could reach.
"They’ve had to really endure a lot," said Smolen. "Not only the way that Elliott died, but over the last years the way the county treated them, the way the county defended the case, the mentality of the county I felt like was indifferent not only to Elliott but when the county has been indifferent to the problem that exists in the jail for decades."
Surveillance video captured the last hours of Williams' life as he lay paralyzed on his jail cell's floor. It was crucial evidence, according to the family's attorney.
"Without Elliott’s death being videotaped, people still would have viewed it as they’re just inmates, they were probably sick when they were in there," said Smolen.
The family asked for $51 million in damages.
"No amount of money can bring him back. I’m still sad, because they needed a bigger impact than this," said Kevin Williams, Elliott's brother. "I’m still sad the fact that my brother is not here, but I’m satisfied for their decision."
According to Tulsa County Clerk Michael Willis, judgments against the county are paid from the sinking fund over a three-year period. The sinking fund receives revenue from property (ad valorem) taxes.
Willis says in cases where judgments are certified, the ad valorem taxes are adjusted to pay the costs associated with the judgment, meaning property taxes could go up.
But the county could avoid paying anything thanks to an indemnification clause in the contract with the county's medical provider, Correctional Healthcare Companies. It remains to be seen if the county will try to make use of the clause.