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$3.125 Million in Settlements in Oregon Prisoner’s Beating Death

On July 2, 2009, the estate and family of a mentally ill Oregon man who died in police custody settled claims against Multnomah County, a former deputy sheriff and jail nurses for $925,000. The case remained pending against the City of Portland, American Medical Response (AMR) ambulance service and numerous individual defendants.

In September 2006, 42-year-old James P. Chasse, Jr., who suffered from schizophrenia, was chased by police officers who believed he was urinating on the sidewalk. An officer who outweighed James by more than 100 pounds tackled and landed on top of him. Sixteen of Chasses’ ribs were fractured and his left lung was punctured.

AMR paramedics examined Chasse at the scene and released him to police for transport to the Multnomah County Detention Center. While in a holding cell, Chasse appeared to suffer a seizure and lost consciousness. A nurse viewed Chasse through a cell door window and told officers he was too ill to be booked into the jail.

Portland police transported Chasse to a hospital by patrol car but he died en route. The cause of death was listed as broad-based blunt force trauma to the chest. [See: PLN, Jan. 2008, p.12].

Chasse’s estate and family brought suit in federal court against AMR and various city and county defendants. The district court denied in part the defendants’ motion to dismiss on June 3, 2009 and scheduled the case for trial. About a month later the county defendants settled for $925,000. The remaining defendants moved for a change of venue, arguing that the extensive media coverage of Chasse’s death made it impossible for them to receive a fair trial. Their motion was denied. AMR settled in December 2009 for a reported $600,000.

On May 10, 2010, a month before trial, the City of Portland agreed to a $1.6 million settlement to resolve the lawsuit. The city also agreed to release internal police reports into Chasse’s death which had been sealed while the lawsuit was pending. The city had previously insisted on keeping the police reports secret, and claimed the Chasse family had “declined reasonable efforts to settle.” See Chasse v. Humphreys, U.S.D.C. (D. Ore.), Case No. 3:2007-cv-00189-KI.

Additional sources: The Oregonian,

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Related legal case

Chasse v. Humphreys