COLES COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — The widow of a 49-year-old Mattoon man who died from injuries after a fall from the second floor of the Coles County Courthouse has filed a lawsuit against the county, sheriff’s department and correctional officers for the death of James Brigham.
Kimberly Brigham’s wrongful death suit was filed in Urbana Monday.
Brigham is seeking more than $50,000 in damages from the court, alleging negligence by the county, police and correctional officers involved in the January incident led to her husband’s death.
James Brigham was in the custody of the Coles County Sheriff’s department as a suspect in a felony disorderly conduct case: he’d been accused of making a bomb threat to Mattoon’s Walmart on December 21.
The lawsuit alleges “Given the circumstances leading up to Mr. Brigham’s arrest,” the correctional officers involved, as well as “other agents of (Coles County Sheriff Jimmy) Rankin knew or should have known that Mr. Brigham presented a danger to himself and others due to his mental health and suicide attempts.”
Brigham’s wife had called Mattoon Police twice toward the end of 2018 — once in October and another time in December — to report her husband’s suicidal intentions and ask police to locate him.
Brigham went to Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana on December 28 for treatment after drinking antifreeze, according to the lawsuit. Once released the following day, Brigham was transferred to the Coles County Jail.
The lawsuit alleges officers did not screen Brigham for mental health issues, failed to complete a “Suicide Prevention Screening Form,” and failed to contact the Coles County Mental Health Department, which had a worker on-call. While still in county jail, Brigham told another inmate on January 21 he planned “to hang himself in the jail or to jump off one of the balconies in the Coles County Courthouse.”
January 22, Brigham was scheduled to appear in court for a divorce hearing.
The wrongful death lawsuit alleges the officer charged with escorting Brigham from the county jail to the courtroom didn’t observe Brigham carefully enough, allowing him to exit “the courtroom into the hallway, (move) to the edge of the walkway railing overlooking the rotunda,” and “pitch himself over the side of the railing.”
The plaintiff is asking for a jury trial on all counts against the defendants.
Kimberly Brigham’s lawyers declined give a comment directly from her regarding the lawsuit because they didn’t want to put the case in jeopardy.
James Brigham’s stepdaughter, Bailey Bateman, sent WCIA a statement:
I feel the lawsuit is acceptable only because he was an inmate in custody and it is their job to pay attention and secure those inmates. They knew at the time he was suicidal and they should’ve taken precautions for that. He shouldn’t have ever had the ability to jump that balcony so I feel it is Coles County’s responsibility.”Bailey Bateman
Sheriff Jim Rankin could not be reached for comment.