The Delaware Department of Correction on Friday evening announced that it had reached a $7.5 million settlement to resolve a wrongful death and workers’ compensation lawsuit by the survivors of the deadly Feb. 1 takeover of James T. Vaughn Correctional Center.
The parties announced the details of the agreement in a joint press release from former U.S. District Judge Joseph J. Farnan Jr. of the District of Delaware, who had been mediating the case. The parties officially stipulated in Delaware federal court to the dismissal of all claims against all individual defendants, including two former governors and high-ranking officials in the DOC.
According to the statement, 11 plaintiffs, including the family of Lt. Steven Floyd Sr., would share the payment, in exchange for a permanent release of their claims. The settlement also included a package of employment-related benefits, the statement said.
The state did not admit to any wrongdoing, and the plaintiffs did not concede that their claims were unfounded.
“The parties are settling to avoid the burden and expense that comes with protracted litigation, and to bring closure to the matter,” they said in the press release.
Saundra Floyd, the wife of Steven Floyd, and five prison employees sued former Govs. Jack Markell, Ruth Ann Minner and DOC officials in April, two months after inmates launched a planned attack and seized control of JTVCC’s Building C for more than 15 hours. Steven Floyd, a veteran correctional officer, was killed in the ordeal, and other guards were tortured, according to court documents.
The plaintiffs alleged due process violations under the 14th Amendment, accusing the former executives of hiding problems related to “severe understaffing” at the prison from lawmakers and the public, even as security there began to deteriorate.
State officials moved to dismiss the suit in June, claiming qualified and legislative immunity. Among other things, they argued that the state was under no constitutional obligation to ensure safe working conditions at the Smyrna prison.
The sides were set to argue the motions last month before U.S. District Judge Richard G. Andrews of the District of Delaware, but the hearing was scrapped at the last minute, after an attorney for Markell and Minner said the parties were actively pursuing talks in the case. The parties had previously agreed to stay discovery in the case, except for third-party discovery related to damages.
Andrews gave the parties until Friday to report back on “any issues” they would need to present to the court.
On Friday, attorneys for the state defendants said that the claims in the lawsuit lacked legal merit but that they hoped the settlement would bring closure to the victims and their families.
“It is their hope that this settlement with the Department of Correction will provide a measure of comfort to the officers, employees and their families, whose service and sacrifice should be honored by all Delawareans,” they said in a prepared text.
The plaintiffs, in a brief statement, expressed their gratitude to law enforcement and and emergency workers who responded to the scene of the takeover in February. Neither the parties nor their attorneys provided further comment on Friday.
The Floyd family and DOC employees were represented by Thomas S. Neuberger and Stephen J. Neuberger of The Neuberger Firm and Thomas C. Crumplar and Raeann Warner of Jacobs & Crumplar.
Markell and Minner were represented by C. Malcolm Cochran IV, Katharine Lester Mowery and Nicole K. Pedi of Richards, Layton & Finger.
The DOC and department officials were represented by Allison McCowan, Scott W. Perkins and James Darlington Taylor Jr. of Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr.
The case was captioned Floyd v. Markell.