The Legal Aid Society Prisoners’ Rights Project and Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel announced a settlement in the case of Bradley Ballard, whose horrific death at Rikers Island in 2013 was ruled a homicide. The settlement of $5,750,000 is the largest ever entered into by New York City for a death in custody.
Mr. Ballard, 39, was a seriously mentally ill and diabetic man who died in 2013 due to the abuse and cruelty of Department of Correction staff and the medical providers on Rikers Island. From the moment Mr. Ballard arrived at Rikers, on a parole violation for failing to change a report of address, his serious medical and mental health needs were mishandled by the City’s health care contractor at the time, Corizon Health, Inc. The abuse took a macabre turn when Department of Correction staff illegally shut him in his cell as a rogue punishment for perceived rudeness, leaving him to decompensate without medication or treatment for his schizophrenia and diabetes. For seven days, until Mr. Ballard died on September 11, 2013, correction and medical staff walked by the locked cell without offering assistance, turned off the water to his cell, and ignored his obvious and fatally deteriorating state until it was too late.
Mr. Ballard’s death was unusual in its gruesomeness, and his suffering was unmatched as reflected by the historic settlement. But the torture he endured resulted from longstanding and known system failures that have plagued Rikers healthcare and supervision of medical and correction staff. In 2015, Corizon’s contract for healthcare was finally cancelled, though many of the correction staff who so woefully failed in their duties remain in the jails. Mr. Ballard’s family can only hope that the City can usher in a new era of basic humanity and competence at Rikers. They hope that the settlement will spark a rigorous review of the cascade of failures and misconduct that caused Mr. Bradley’s premature and painful death. No other patient, and no family, should have to endure their suffering.
Mr. Ballard’s mother, Beverly Ann Griffin, was represented in this lawsuit by Jonathan S. Abady, Debra L. Greenberger and Hayley Horowitz of ECBAWM and Jonathan Chasan and Mary Lynne Werlwas of the Legal Aid Society.