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Jail Prisoner Strangles Psychiatrist; Jury Awards $2.6 Million

A Florida jury awarded $2,650,260 in the strangling death of a psychiatrist doing an evaluation on a prisoner at the Collier County Jail. David J. Hoyer was doing a court ordered competency evaluation on January 3, 2001, when he was attacked by prisoner Rodrigus Sanchez Patten, then 20.

The suit was brought by Hoyer's wife, alleging the Collier County Sheriff and the Jail failed to warn and protect Hoyer from an extremely dangerous, mentally ill prisoner. Over the course of Patten's ninety days incarceration, the Defendants had sufficient information to properly warn and protect Hoyer. The Defendants asserted Hoyer had in fact been warned on numerous occasions about Patten's potential danger and it was not foreseeable he would strangle Hoyer.

The Jury found Hoyer 50% to blame for his death, cutting the jury's May 9, 2005, award in half. Due to the operation of state caps on non-economic damages, the net award was reduced to $555,130. Hoyer's estate was represented by West Palm Beach attorneys David M. Garpari and W. Hampton Keen. See: Hoyer v. Hunter, USDC, MD FL, Case No. 2:04-CV-00211-FTM-29DNF.

Patten was charged and convicted of first degree murder in Hoyer's death in January, 2005. While prosecutors sought the death penalty, on January 25, 2005, he was sentenced to life in prison due to his mental illness. Patten had been found incompetent to stand trial in Hoyer's murder in 2001.

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Related legal case

Hoyer v. Hunter