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Connecticut: Suit Over Prisoner's Suicide Settles for $450,000

In this case published by the New England Jury Verdict Review & Analysis in
February 1994, the estate and brother of a prisoner who committed suicide
in the Southington, Connecticut, jail apparently settled their claims for

According to the plaintiffs, at around midnight on October 6, 1998,
Christopher Langton, 24, threatened to kill himself. Christopher was
restrained by his brother while his mother called the Southington police
department. His mother asked the police to respond and take Christopher to
the hospital because he was suicidal. When the police arrived they arrested
both Christopher and his brother and took them both to the police station,
ignoring pleas to take Christopher to the hospital.

At the station, plaintiffs contended, no suicide screening was conducted.
Placed alone in a cell, Christopher attempted to hang himself with his
shirt. Police took away the shirt and called an ambulance. The ambulance,
operated by Medstar, responded approximately 32 minutes later -- in
violation of its city contract which specified an emergency response time
of seven minutes. During the wait Christopher again attempted suicide, this
time by hanging himself with a sock tied to a bar in his cell. Police
discovered Christopher several minutes later and cut him down. Police
placed the unconscious Christopher in a sitting position where he choked on
his own vomit and turned blue before any medical assistance was attempted.
When the ambulance finally arrived Christopher was transported to the
hospital, which was about one minute away; he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Plaintiffs, Christopher's estate and his brother, 19, sued the Town of
Southington contending that it was liable for Christopher's death in that
the town failed to properly train its police officers in the handling of
suicidal prisoners and that the individual officers were negligent. In
addition, Christopher's brother asserted claims in his own right of civil
rights violations and bystander liability. Christopher's estate also sued
Medstar for negligence and breach of third-party beneficiary contract.
The plaintiffs retained eight experts, including James Black of West
Hartford, Connecticut (psychiatry); Mark Braunsdorf of Hartford
(psychology); Richard Judd of New Britain, Connecticut (emergency medical
assistance); Author Wright from the University of Connecticut at Storrs
(economics); and Joseph Rowan of Minnesota (small-jail suicide).
After one day of mediation, plaintiffs settled their claims for a total of
$450,000 -- $300,000 from the Town of Southington and $100,000 from Medstar
to Christopher's estate, and $25,000 from the Town of Southington to
Christopher's brother. (The $25,000 discrepancy was unaccounted for). Also
as part of the settlement, the Town of Southington agreed to implement a
suicide awareness program in Christopher's memory.

Plaintiffs were represented by David K. Jaffe and Carl R. Ficks, Jr. of the
New Britain law firm Eisenberg, Anderson, Michalik & Lynch. See: Langton v.
The Town of Southington., USDC SD CT, Case No. 291CV00366 (PCD).

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Related legal case

Langton v. The Town of Southington

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