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U.S. District, Camden

In this negligence and ________ Civil Rights action, the plaintiff contended that the defendant acted with reckless indifference to the 23-year-old decedent’s rights by failing to implement procedures for using general intake forms relating to potential suicide risks and for failing to rectify a continuing failure to adhere to state regulations regarding the use of closed circuit TV monitors in holding cells. The plaintiff contended that as a result, the decedent hung himself with a noose constructed from his shirt after his shoe laces and belt had been taken from him.

The decedent, who had no documented earnings history, was married and left four children.

The plaintiff contended that following a domestic dispute, the municipal police officers arrived at the home and took the decedent into custody after a struggle. The officers’ records reflected that the decedent had been drinking and that blood was on his wife’s face. The plaintiff maintained that during much of the approximate 1 1/2 hour period in which the decedent was in the cell, the decedent was boisterous and continued using profanity. The decedent was then found hanging in his cell.

The plaintiff maintained that Chief of Police had, several months before he was promoted from Lieutenant, submitted a memo in which he criticized the municipality for failing to implement a closed circuit TV monitoring system and in which he referred to a violation issued by the state. The plaintiff maintained that over the course of the ensuing several year period, during which the p 7 3 former Lt. had been Chief, the municipality had been cited on two subsequent occasions by the State Dept. of Corrections for failing to utilize such a system. The plaintiff also maintained that prior to the incident, the Chief and several officers had attended a seminar on suicide prevention and had been given a number of standardized intake forms designed to identify potential suicide risks. The plaintiff maintained that despite attending this seminar, the defendant failed to use any of these forms.

The defendant denied that the decedent showed any signs that he was a potential suicide risk. The plaintiff countered that the combination of alcohol consumption, a domestic dispute and continuing loud and boisterous behavior while in the cell should have alerted the defendant to the potential that the decedent was a risk for suicide. The defendant denied that this position should be accepted, contending that it could not reasonably have anticipated the suicide. The defendant also contended that it acted appropriately in taking the decedent’s shoe laces and belt from him. The plaintiff countered that the defendant failed to utilize the simple intake form which the plaintiff maintained would have alerted the defendants to the risk.

The plaintiff established that the decedent had attempted suicide on two prior occasions and contended that the proper use of the intake form would have disclosed this history. The defendant denied that the use of the form would have prevented the suicide and contended that if the decedent was intent on committing the act, there would be no basis to believe that he would be truthful when answering the questions on the forms. The plaintiff countered that the defendant, which did not attempt to take such a measure, should not be permitted to successfully advance that the use of the form would not have been effective.

The defendant further contended that it acted properly in that the officers were familiar with a suicide handbook kept at the station. The plaintiff countered that this handbook only dealt with actions to prevent suicide once a risk was determined to exist and not in identifying such risks. The plaintiff also established through discovery that the Chief had made inquiry as to the cost of installing a closed circuit system, that the cost was small and argued that despite this factor and the prior citations by the State, the defendant failed to install such a system. The plaintiff contended that if such a system had been in place, continuing monitoring would have been provided and the suicide prevented.

The decedent left a wife and four children, currently ages three to eight. The plaintiff contended that the decedent would work at various manual labor jobs on an ad hoc basis and generally provided several hundred dollars per week to his family. The plaintiff would have introduced evidence of $________ in wrongful death damages. The defendant countered that the decedent had no documented earnings history and would have denied that the plaintiff’s position should be accepted.

The plaintiff would have also made a claim for several minutes of conscious pain and suffering. The plaintiff further contended, under the Civil Rights Statute, that the defendant acted with reckless indifference to the decedent’s rights and that the p 7 3 plaintiff should be compensated for the deprivation of the decedent’s civil rights in-and-of itself. The defendant moved for summary judgment on this issue, arguing that there was insufficient evidence to establish such reckless indifference.

The case settled during the pendency of this motion for $________.

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