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Vermont DOC Settles PLN Writer's Suicide Suit for $750,000

On October 14, 2004,the estate of PLN contributing writer James Quigley sued the Vermont Department of Corrections (V.D.O.C.) and several V.D.O.C. employees, alleging their mistreatment of Quigley resulted in his suicide death. Four months later the state settled the suit for $750,000. In previous issues, PLN reported Quigley's death and two reports sanctioned by the commonwealth of Vermont into V.D.O.C. and a rash of prisoners' deaths. [See: PLN, January and September 2004]

On the 118th day of retaliatory and unjustified solitary confinement, Quigley hanged himself on October 7, 2003, at the Northwest State Correctional Facility in St. Albans. The lawsuit filed in Vermont Federal District Court in Burlington, alleged that Quigley's confinement was the result of retaliation for filing grievances and lawsuits against V.D.O.C. conditions. The suit, further, alleged that Quigley's confinement conditions constituted cruel and unusual punishment. Moreover, Quigley was deprived of adequate medical and mental health care, the suit charged.

The civil rights lawsuit was filed on behalf of Quigley's mother, Claire Quigley. The lawsuit was filed days after Ryan Rodriguez, a 25-year-old-man awaiting trial, was taken off life support after hanging himself four days earlier in the Chittenden County Correctional Facility in South Burlington. Rodriguez's death was the first in a V.D.O.C. prison since Quigley's. Prior to Quigley's death, seven deaths including two suicides of persons under V.D.O.C. supervision occurred in 18 months.

The subsequent investigations into those deaths resulted in the superintendents of the prisons at Newport and St. Albans being replaced.

In February, 2005, after a five hour mediation session, the Vermont DOC agreed to settle the lawsuit by paying Quigley's estate $750,000.00 in damages. Quigley's estate was represented by Vermont attorney David Sleigh. PLN editor Paul Wright assisted Quigley's family in locating counsel and through the litigation. See: Estate of James Quigley v. Lanman, Vermont USDC, Case No: 1:04-CV0-277.

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