$400,000 Award in Failure to Protect Connecticut Suicidal Prisoner
A Connecticut judge has awarded a prisoner’s estate $403,164.30, finding the City of Hartford police were liable for the prisoner’s suicide death. At a bench trial, the Court held the arresting officer had a duty to advise the jail marshals that the prisoner was suicidal.
The lawsuit was brought by the estate of 25-year-old Brian Thomes, who was found passed out on a street shortly after midnight on May 9, 2004. He told the medical technicians who came to care for him, “I’ve taken a lot of drugs,” and “my life is over.”
Thomes was taken to a local emergency room, where he stayed overnight. While in the hospital, Thomes created such a commotion that he had to be subdued with a taser by an off-duty police officer. When on-duty officers arrived, they left him in the hospital’s care while they went to obtain an arrest warrant for his violent behavior.
Police told the court they believed Thomes would be held for 71 hours at the hospital so a psychological evaluation could be completed. That belief, however, was not in Thomes’s medical file. Instead, at 7 a.m., the hospital called the police and told them to either come pick Thomes up of he would be discharged.
The Hartford police officer who picked Thomes up had no information about his suicidal threats. Thus, the marshals at the Judicial Department lock-up were similarly uninformed when they took Thomes into custody and placed him in a cell out of sight of their “bullpen.”
By the end of the day, Thomes was found hanging from the bars of his cell. He used a blanket to hang himself. His estate sued the judicial marshals and the Hartford police for failing to take action to protect Thomes from himself.
It was quickly learned the marshals had no information about Thomes’s suicidal tendency. They were dropped from the suit. The matter proceeded to a bench trial against the City.
Hartford Superior Court Judge James M. Bentivegna found a duty arose from the special relationship between an arrested person and the arresting agency. That duty was breached when the city police failed to inform the marshals about Thomes’s recent suicide attempt.
The Court’s $403,164.30 award is for the loss of life’s enjoyment and funeral expenses.
Thomes’s estate was represented by attorneys Paul M. Iannaccone and Michael C. Jainchill. See Thomes v. City of Hartford, Hartford, Connecticut, Superior Court, Case No. HHD-CV-05-5001223-5.
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Related legal case
Thomes v. City of Hartford
|Hartford, Connecticut, Superior Court, Case No. HHD-CV-05-5001223-5
|State Trial Court