Comanche County Jury Returns $6.5 Million Verdict in Oklahoma Wrongful Death Lawsuit
The Oklahoma wrongful death attorneys of Richardson Richardson Boudreaux on behalf of the family of Ronald S. Sites, deceased, successfully prosecuted a wrongful death lawsuit against The Geo Group, Inc., a Florida Corporation, d/b/a Lawton Correctional Facility for the wrongful death of Sites at the hands of Robert M. Cooper at the Lawton Correctional Facility on January 29, 2005.
Tulsa, OK, June 28, 2011: It’s been a painful seven-year journey for the Sites’ family in their quest for justice in the death of their father, Ronald Sites, but on June 23, a 12-member jury in Comanche County, OK delivered vindication and closure in an award of $6 million in actual damages and $500,000 in punitive damages against the Oklahoma privatized penal system.
Sites, 48, was a former law enforcement officer who suffered a traumatic brain injury that left him unable to control his constant talking, which was an irritant of major proportion to the prison’s inmates and staff alike. Prison officials failed to educate the inmates and staff about Sites’ medical condition, and as a result, Sites was the subject of extreme harassment to which the prison staff and officials turned a blind eye. Under standard protocol, officials were under a duty to keep him in protective custody and in an individual cell. However, LCF prison officials ignored the restriction and Sites had several cellmates, none of whom could tolerate Sites’ uncontrollable behavior.
Cooper, a convicted murderer, displayed a proclivity towards violence. He stabbed another inmate, carried shanks and did time in isolation because he admitted to a counselor that he fought off the urge to kill a prior cellmate. Standard protocol dictated that Cooper be given a single cell to protect other inmates from his aberrant behavior.
Against all protocol, LCF staff placed Sites and Cooper in a shared cell. Cooper strangled Sites on January 29, 2005. Prison staff did not become aware that Sites was dead until the following morning. A jury convicted Cooper of first-degree manslaughter in 2007 and he received a life sentence.
The Sites family had questions about the circumstances leading up to their father’s death. However, the Geo Group and/or The Wackenhut Corrections Corporation, operators of the prison, were not forthcoming in their responses. As a result, the family retained the services of Richardson Richardson Boudreaux (RRB), a Tulsa personal injury law firm, to investigate the wrongful death of their father.
In their investigation, the Tulsa attorneys exposed layers of blatant negligence on the part of the prison operators and employees. A wrongful death lawsuit followed in January 2007 alleging, among other violations, that Defendants’ conduct fell below the standard of care and/or industry standards. The Defendants denied any wrongdoing and placed the blame entirely on Sites’ uncontrollable behavior and Cooper’s actions as a third party, which they claimed was beyond their control.
The civil trial began on June 13. The jury went into deliberation on June 23 and after only three hours rendered its verdict. It was the overwhelming agreement of all twelve jurors that the GEO Group, the Wackenhut Corrections Corporation and LCF officials and staff were negligent in the duty to maintain Sites in a safe and secure manner and in that failure recklessly disregarded Sites’ civil rights. The only difference of opinion within the jury was the amount of the award—ten jurors agreed on the award of $6 million in actual damages and $500,000 in punitive damages while two jurors wanted to award up to $25 million.
Seven years after their father’s death, his children finally got the answers they sought in their father’s death. It took four years in the civil justice system and years of investigation and depositions to learn the painful truth about the mistreatment he endured at the hands of prison officials and inmates alike—all of which was avoidable had proper protocol been followed for the inmate suffering from a traumatic brain injury.
Charles Richardson of the wrongful death legal team has a heartfelt message for the jury,
“RRB thanks the 12-member jury for their dedication in listening to the evidence presented and having the courage to stand up against the establishment. The Sites family can now begin their personal healing and put behind them the pain caused by not knowing the events surrounding their father’s untimely death. They feel that the verdict rendered by the jury will send a loud strong message that the rights and safety of inmates are paramount during incarceration. Most importantly, Mr. Sites’ children thank the jury for finding justice for their father.”