Jury Awards $33 Million in Damages in Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Ottawa County Jail

Tulsa, Oklahoma – A federal civil jury awarded $33 million in damages to the estate of Terral Brooks Ellis II, who died in the Ottawa County jail in 2015. The jury found that the medical care provided by the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office violated Ellis’ constitutional rights. Ellis’ family expressed satisfaction and gratitude for the jury’s verdict, ending their years-long wait for justice.

Ellis, 26, was pronounced dead on October 22, 2015, shortly after being transported from the Ottawa County jail to a local hospital with no detectable blood pressure. During his 10-day stay at the jail, Ellis’ medical condition continued to worsen. He had surrendered to authorities on a DUI warrant.

Videos from the jail captured Ellis pleading for medical attention hours before his death. In one harrowing moment, Ellis can be heard saying, “My God, help, please,” while a nurse’s voice aggressively denies that anything is wrong. The state medical examiner later determined that Ellis died from septic shock caused by pneumonia.

Leading up to his death, Ellis had complained of various symptoms, such as leg numbness, respiratory issues, kidney stones, and discolored skin. The pain he attributed to kidney stones turned out to be a sign of renal failure, according to court records.

County officials primarily held jailers and nurse Theresa Horn responsible for Ellis’ death. Former Ottawa County Sheriff Terry Durborow acknowledged the tragedy and criticized Horn for failing to perform her duties. However, both Durborow and Horn were dismissed as defendants in the case prior to trial.

The county argued that it had policies in place to provide necessary medical attention to inmates but claimed that others had violated those policies. Current Ottawa County Sheriff David Dean, who took office in 2021, was unavailable for comment.

Ellis’ family hopes that the trial and the jury’s verdict will initiate much-needed reforms in Oklahoma county jails’ healthcare delivery systems. The $33 million awarded will be used to care for Ellis’ son, who was four years old when his father died.

The outcome of this case highlights the importance of upholding the constitutional rights and ensuring proper medical care for incarcerated individuals. It emphasizes the need for comprehensive reforms to address systemic deficiencies and prevent future tragedies within county jails.