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$943,000 Settlement for Family of Man Who Died in Courtroom

The family of a man who died in 2001 from an asthma attack has settled a 42 U.S.C. §1983 suit for $943,000.

Robert L. Waters, Jr. collapsed in the well of D.C. Superior Court Judge Tim Murphy’s courtroom on April 20, 2001, while waiting to make an appearance on charges of drinking in public from an open container. Waters complained to his attorneys, a courtroom nurse and U.S. marshals that he was having trouble breathing. Waters died an hour and 45 minutes after being examined by the courtroom nurse from an acute bronchial asthmatic attack. Waters had been taking prescription asthma medication at the time of his arrest, but police took his medicine when they arrested him.

Waters’ family sued the District of Columbia under § 1983, the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act and the courtroom nurse and the contractor she worked for, Arora Group, claiming negligence.

On August 25, 2005, the defendants agreed to settle the case for $943,000. Arora Group and the courtroom nurse agreed to pay roughly $800,000 to Waters’ family. The U.S. Marshals service settled for $73,000. The city agreed to pay $70,000. None of the defendants admitted any wrongdoing.

Arora no longer provides medical care for the court. Additionally, the D.C. police department has changed its policy on the confiscation of prescription meds.

The Waters were represented by Daniel Schultz of Schultz & Trombly, a Washington, D.C. firm. See: Waters v. District of Columbia, USDC, D.D.C., No. 02-cv-00167 (2005).

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Related legal case

Waters v. District of Columbia