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$350,000 paid to settle 2013 jail heat stroke death case

A state self-insurance plan paid $350,000 to resolve claims against Richmond Sheriff C.T. Woody and staff members arising from the 2010 death of a city jail inmate.

A federal judge sealed the terms of the 2013 settlement at the request of Woody and other parties in the federal wrongful death lawsuit, but a state agency provided payment information Monday in response to a request under the state open records law.

The 2013 payment settled the lawsuit filed by the family of Grant R. Sleeper. Sleeper suffered a fatal heat stroke while he was incarcerated in a unit of the city jail that had no air conditioning.

He was found unresponsive with a temperature of 104.5 degrees, according to allegations in the lawsuit.

Despite acknowledging a presumption of public access to court records, lawyers for the sheriff asked U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson to seal the payment amount. They said the defendants considered confidentiality to be “an essential term” of the settlement and feared publicity could encourage additional litigation.

Hudson approved the Sleeper settlement and sealed the terms on Aug. 2, 2013.

Confidentiality was “required as a condition to settlement,” according to Mark J. Krudys, an attorney for the Sleeper estate.

Allegations of inhumane heat at the city jail surfaced in another lawsuit in which the city of Richmond agreed to pay a record $2.99 million to a former inmate, according to his attorneys. The sheriff and another defendant agreed to pay additional, undisclosed amounts, the lawyers said.

Stefan Woodson suffered a disabling heat strike in 2012 at the city jail, according to allegations in his case, which remains pending.

No information on the sheriff’s contribution to the Woodson settlement was available from the state’s Division of Risk Management because no payment has yet been made, according to information from the DRM’s parent agency.

Woody acknowledged harsh conditions at the jail in 2008. Work began on a new jail in 2012 and the new facility opened last summer.

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