Tom Rhodes Law Firm P.C. and Co-Counsel Reach $1.9 Million Settlement Agreement in Sandra Bland Wrongful Death Lawsuit

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Attorneys at Tom Rhodes Law Firm P.C. and co-counsel have reached a $1.9 million settlement agreement in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of Sandra Bland.

A recent article published by NPR on September 15, 2016 reports that Attorneys Tom Rhodes, Erin Oglesby, and Robert Brzezinski of Tom Rhodes Law Firm P.C., together with co-counsel, have reached a $1.9 million settlement agreement in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the mother of Sandra Bland (Case No. 4:15-CV-02232, U.S District Court Southern District of Texas). Bland was taken into custody by officer Brian Encinia for a traffic violation in July 2015 and was found dead in a Waller County jail cell three days later.

According to court documents, Waller County will be responsible for paying $1.8 million and the Texas Department of Public Safety will pay an additional $100,000.00. Court documents explain that the settlement agreement includes de-escalation training for state troopers and changes to Waller County jail procedures. Speaking on the settlement, Rhodes states, “This has never been about the money for the family, they wanted changes made. The settlement was an opportunity for the family to make changes that we think are really important and are going to save lives in the future so this won't happen again."

The court documents state that Waller County jail agreed to implement the following policy changes:

  • Changes to the booking process
  • Implementation of telemedicine equipment so detainees and inmates can be screened by a health care or mental health care professional
  • Onsite staff, which includes a nurse or EMT that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Implementation of a system that does not allow falsified jail logs (This system will require a sensor, card swipe, or another tool on each cell that will be registered in the computer system)

In addition, the parties agreed to advance legislation that will require other Texas jails to implement these changes, which, according to court documents, will need to be passed by the legislature.

Rhodes adds, “We are very proud of the resolution we reached in this matter. The terms of the settlement, which include policy changes that will apply to both the Texas Department of Public Safety as well as the Waller County Jail, are a substantial step toward improving the issues involved in Ms. Bland’s case, and should go a long way towards keeping this from happening again. We hope that this case will signal the beginning of a trend of changes in legislation and standards affecting the conduct of jails and law enforcement agencies, which would constitute the ultimate legacy of Sandra Bland’s name.”

Communities rely on law enforcement officers to protect and serve. In return, law officers rely on communities to provide cooperation and support. Unfortunately, this relationship is not always harmonious. The team at Tom Rhodes Law Firm P.C. hopes to continue pursuing positive outcomes on behalf of individuals who have been treated unjustly.

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