Fulton settlement in inmate’s bed bug death: Money, but no changes at jail

The settlement Fulton County reached with the family of Lashawn Thompson includes a $4 million payment but does not commit the county or the jail to any further specific actions.

Thompson, 35, of Winter Haven, Florida, died Sept. 13 in a mental-health cell in the Fulton County Jail. According to his family and lawyers, he had been visibly deteriorating for some time but was ignored, and died covered in lice and bedbugs.

A county medical examiner’s report said his cause of death was undetermined, but an independent autopsy paid for by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick concluded that Thompson died of neglect.

Thompson’s family signed the settlement agreement July 25, and Fulton County commissioners voted 6-0 to approve it Aug. 2.

The agreement covers the county, the sheriff’s office and all their current and former employees, releasing them from all legal claims in exchange for the $4 million payment.

Thompson’s family agreed to pay any Medicare and Medicaid liens out of the settlement funds, and the county did not admit to any wrongdoing connected with Thompson’s death.

Commissioner Khadijah Abdur-Rahman said last week she believed a similar settlement was in the works between Thompson’s family and NaphCare, which has provided health care at the jail since 2017.

Family attorney Michael Harper did not respond Wednesday to a request for comment on the county settlement, or the existence of any similar agreements. NaphCare representatives did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Justice has opened an investigation of the jail, citing Thompson’s death as one of dozens in the facility during the past few years.

Five people have died in Fulton County custody so far this year.

In April, as part of the reaction to Thompson’s death, county commissioners approved $5.3 million in extra jail funding for inmate health tracking, cameras and other upgrades.

County commissioners are inching toward approval of a $1.7 billion plan to build a much larger new jail – not just more cells, but greatly expanded physical and mental health care; but so far they have not approved millions Labat requested for a “bridging plan” to keep the 34-year-old Rice Street jail functioning until the new one is expected to open in 2029.