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Michigan Jail Settles Suicide Suit for $280,000

On June 6, 2004, Wayne County, Michigan, agreed to pay $280,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by the family of a county prisoner who committed suicide days after he was attacked by another prisoner.

Jose Perez was arrested on December 27, 2000, and placed in the Wayne County Jail in Detroit, Michigan. Three weeks after his initial cell assignment, Perez was moved to another section of the jail without the approval of the jail classification section.

While there, Perez was attacked by another prisoner who entered his cell at 9:45 p.m., pulled the sleeping Perez from his bunk, and viciously punched and kicked him while he was on the floor. Perez called to guards for help during the February 24, 2001, attack, but none responded. Another prisoner, Douglas Buchannon, ultimately intervened and pulled the attacker off of Perez.

At 10:00 p.m., guard Michael Brudzinski returned to the area from another section of the jail where he had been playing computer games. Perez called out that he needed a nurse, but Brudzinski took no action. Shortly thereafter, guard Kim Robinson noticed Perez's swollen and bleeding right eye and bloody nose while conducting a routine count. Perez told her that he had been attacked and that he was having difficulty breathing, but like Brudzinski, she did nothing. Neither Brudzinski nor Robinson informed the next shift of Perez's injuries.

When the midnight shift came on and saw the extent of Perez's injuries, he was taken to the hospital and treated for a closed head injury; right periorbital contusion; conjunctival hemorrhage on right eye; chest pain, rib fracture; and abrasions. After approximately 3 ½ hours at the hospital, Perez was returned to the jail at 4:25 a.m. on February 25, 2001, and placed in the Sixth Floor maximum security area.

Later that day, at approximately 6:21 p.m., guards discovered Perez hanging in his cell. Paramedics responded 5 minutes later and took Perez to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 7:19 p.m. Jail officials never notified Perez's family of his death. Perez's sister, Carmen Diaz, a Detroit Police Officer, ultimately learned of Perez's death at around midnight on February 27, 2005, when her commander informed her that Perez had committed suicide.

Perez's family sued Wayne County, the sheriff, and several guards alleging, among other things, that jail officials should have known Perez had a history of depression and that his injuries, the delay in receiving medical attention, and teasing over his ass kicking" by a John Doe guard caused him severe emotional distress and mental anguish that contributed to his suicide.

In a settlement approved by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on June 10, 2004, Wayne County agreed to pay Perez's family $280,000 for his wrongful death. Attorney's fees were approved in the amount of $100,000. The family was represented by attorney Peter J. Parks of Troy, Michigan. See: Diaz v. County of Wayne, USDC ED MI, Case No. 02-71066.

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Related legal case

Diaz v. County of Wayne