Inmate lawsuit settled for $15.5 million
Doña Ana County — The Doña Ana County Board of Commissioners has agreed to a $15.5 million settlement of the lawsuit filed on behalf of Stephen Slevin. In his suit, Mr. Slevin successfully alleged that as a detainee at the Doña Ana County Detention Center, between August 2005 and June 2007, he was not provided adequate medical and mental healthcare. The Board of County Commissioners says it deeply regrets the harm Mr. Slevin suffered during this period. Over the past seven years, Doña Ana County says they have made significant improvements to detention center staffing, training, facilities and procedures. Officials say they are committed to ensuring consistent and appropriate treatment of every detainee in its care.
County officials add that the settlement will not affect the long-term integrity or financial stability of Doña Ana County. The New Mexico Association of Counties will pay $6 million of the settlement. The county will pay the remainder out of cash reserves. The balance left in cash reserves will be sufficient to satisfy state mandates. However, the County adds, loss of interest revenues based on past cash reserves will require careful financial management.
In agreeing to the settlement, the Board of County Commissioners took into consideration the risks of the appeals outcomes, as well as the total potential costs had the $22 million jury verdict stood. Including interest, attorneys’ fees and costs, the total could have reached in excess of $24 million. Officials say the county was not in a financial position to bear that kind of burden without the certainty of adverse implications to staffing and key program provisions.
As part of the settlement, Detention Center Director Chris Barela and former Medical Director Dan Zemek are released from personal liability in the verdict.