The family and estate of the Decedent was awarded $7.4 million in damages against three police officers for injuries received while in their custody that led directly to his death 14 days later. A Circuit Court jury found that all three officers acted negligently while taking the Decedent into custody and transporting him, and that the Defendant(s) additionally acted with gross negligence.
On November 23, the Plaintiffs’ Decedent, was a healthy and productive 43-year-old plumber, who was detained by the Defendants for public urination in an alley. The officers arrested and handcuffed the Decedent with his hands behind his back. He was then placed into a police van driven by the Defendant who failed to seatbelt him in direct violation of police regulations designed for prisoner safety. The Plaintiffs alleged that Defendant drove in an aggressive fashion, so that the Decedent was violently thrown around the back of the vehicle while he was helplessly cuffed. When the Defendants, who were following the wagon in their own patrol car, arrived at the District Station, they found the Decedent on the wagon floor, unable to move or feel his legs.
The Defendants, apparently believing that the Decedent was faking his injuries, and did not call for immediate medical attention. Instead, they physically removed him from the police wagon without stabilizing his neck, placed him on the ground and then into their own patrol car for transport to a nearby hospital. There, a CT scan of the neck confirmed a severe C4-5 fracture and dislocation of the cervical spine with locked facets and bilateral fractures of the lamina and pedicles. The fracture dislocation was so severe that the neurosurgeon had to remove bone to unlock the facets and realign the vertebrae. The Decedent remained quadriplegic and continued on a downward spiral until he succumbed to the effects of the injuries on December 7. He was survived by two sons.
The Defendant denied that she drove aggressively and claimed that she only drove with the normal flow of rush hour traffic. The Defendants claimed that they failed to call for medical help because they thought the Decedent was faking his injuries.