Delaware settles prison riot lawsuit for $7.5 million

The lawsuit claimed the state Department of Correction and two former governors created dangerous conditions that led to violence at the Smyrna prison.

Four people are charged with murder, kidnapping and other crimes in the February 2017 riot at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center. (WHYY)

Four people are charged with murder, kidnapping and other crimes in the February 2017 riot at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center. (WHYY)

The state of Delaware has settled a lawsuit that stemmed from February’s fatal prison riot for $7.5 million.

The lawsuit was filed earlier this year by six workers in the Department of Correction and five others — including Lt. Steven Floyd’s widow and children — filed the suit earlier this year against the DOC and former Govs. Jack Markell and Ruth Ann Minner. Other prison and budget administrators named in the suit were accused of failing to properly fund and operate the Department of Correction and its facilities.

Floyd was killed in the February 2017 prison uprising at the Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna. During the riot, inmates held guards hostage for nearly 18 hours.

The lawsuit accused Markell, Minner and others of “dereliction” that led to extreme understaffing, inadequate training and overreliance on overtime by guards who often worked 16-hour shifts, creating dangerous conditions at Vaughn, the lawsuit said.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

In the settlement announced via email Friday night, the state has agreed to settle the claims for $7.55 million to be distributed among the 11 plaintiffs. Despite the settlement, Markell, Minner and other defendants dispute the accusations and deny any wrongdoing.

The settlement announcement includes a joint statement from the defendants, which says the claims made in the lawsuit “lacked legal merit.” The state is settling “to avoid the burden and expense that comes with protracted litigation and to bring closure to the matter,” according to the announcement.

A statement from the plaintiffs was also included in the announcement: “Each of the injured parties and their families wish to thank the general public, the members of the COAD (Correctional Officer Association of Delaware) Union, the Delaware and Maryland state troopers and other law enforcement officers on the scene on Feb. 1 and 2, first responders and the media for their support.”

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal