County supervisors green-light $3.25M wrongful-death settlement

Posted: Updated:
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- It took them three tries, but the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a multi-million dollar settlement in the wrongful-death lawsuit filed by the family of an inmate who died while in the custody of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.

In a special meeting that lasted only about 15 minutes, the board voted 3-1 to pay $3.25 million to the family of Deborah Braillard. The 46-year-old died of complications of diabetes while in the MCSO custody in 2005.

Braillard's family sued, claiming MCSO knew about her condition, but failed to get her medical help when she became incoherent while in custody. According to the suit, employees at the Estrella Jail noted her symptoms, but attributed them to drug withdrawal.

The trial started in September. About three weeks into it, the county, which has already spent a reported $2.2 million defending itself, agreed in principle to a settlement deal, but the Board of Supervisors had to approve it.

The proposed, and now approved, settlement has been a source of contention for several weeks.

Tuesday was the second time the board voted on the settlement. The issue was the only thing on the agenda.

On Oct. 31, the board voted 2-2 on the settlement. The tie sent the case back to the jury, much to the dismay of a group called Citizens for a Better Arizona.

That tie vote came after the original vote was tabled when the same group interrupted an Oct. 18 Board of Supervisors meeting. Amid speeches and singing, Chairman Max Wilson abruptly ended that proceeding before the vote could take place.

Because the court ruled that the Braillard family was eligible for both compensatory and punitive damages if they won their case, a jury verdict could have come in much higher than the $3.25 million settlement.

Supervisor Andy Kunasek was the lone "no" vote.