Public Relations For Multi-Million Dollar Settlement With Lincoln County

Services: Public Relations, Media Coordination

The Background

As their agency of record, Funk/Levis supports the attorneys of Johnson Johnson Lucas & Middleton (JJL&M) in their fight for justice, equality and accountability. JJL&M has successfully represented clients across the western United States and improved international and national legal standards and safety practices for consumers, workers, and surviving families.

The family of Bradley Thomas hired JJL&M along with Gresham Injury Law after Thomas died in his cell at the Lincoln County Jail. The family wanted justice for Thomas’s wrongful death. A settlement was reached and Lincoln County was ordered to pay $2.8 million to the Thomas family.

The Challenge

Create extensive media coverage to show that justice is possible and prompt change inside the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office.

The Solution

Funk/Levis met with the lead lawyer to understand the nature of the case and implications for wide ranging changes in treatment of inmates. We strategized how the settlement could gain the most media attention and crafted a press release outlining the key details leading up to Thomas’s death. We obtained court documents and transcripts for reporters and our team compiled footage of Bradley inside the jail cell. We edited the key components we knew would attract reporters to the story ultimately giving them extra footage for the television broadcasts. We also worked with the team of lawyers involved in this settlement to obtain quotes from Thomas’s family. We then utilized our network of media contacts at the local, state and regional level to ensure the story received the media attention it deserved and was covered for multiple days. We tapped in to our relationship with the Associated Press and convinced their manager to place the story on the national news feed. We also helped coordinate interviews with a lawyer in Portland and coached him on the questions he should prepare to answer. As we pitched reporters, we made sure the focus of the story remained on justice and care for mentally ill patients in jail.

The Results

As a result of our concerted efforts, the story was placed on the Associated Press’s national feed. Over the course of a week the story was picked up by dozens of news networks in Oregon and across the country. The news coverage sparked engagement on social media with articles being shared hundreds of times from The Oregonian and other new sites. As the conversation continued, it moved the story from a “jail inmate” to a mentally ill father who was denied basic care. At the conclusion of the case, a press release was issued from the county’s lawyers highlighting the changes that would be made to prevent another person from dying in the Lincoln County Jail.