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$7.25 Million Settlement over New York DOC Guard's Suicide Attempt

The City of New York Department of Corrections (CNYDC) reached a $7.25 million settlement with a former guard who alleged she was negligently allowed to retain the department issued firearm that she used for an attempted suicide. Both parties agreed to the settlement during closing arguments.

Judy Jones, a guard at Queens House of Detention (QHD) since March 1984, was authorized to carry a firearm in April 1986 by CNYDC. During a riot at QHD on October 28, 1987, Jones fought with inmates and guards alike, and was forcefully removed from the prison while screaming. The CNYDOC confiscated Jones’ weapon at that time. Three years later, in July 1990, Jones was diagnosed as having major depression with psychotic features after asking permission to leave work to murder her roommate. In September of the same year, Jones was involuntarily admitted to a psychiatric hospital after expressing suicidal and homicidal tendencies.

In March 1992, CNYDC officials, aware that Jones was taking antipsychotic medications, noted that she had been stable for 13 months and cleared Jones for the return of her weapon. Weeks later, Jones’ firearm was confiscated once again when she brought rape accusations against two of her superiors. In October of that year, the allegations were found unsubstantiated, and Jones was returned her weapon. On November 11, 1992, CNYDC had Jones admitted to a Florida alcohol rehabilitation facility. Jones was not relieved of her weapon at this time, as is required by CNYDC policy.

Following her release from rehab, Jones remained on indefinite sick leave and reported to a CNYDC psychologist monthly through June 29, 1993. During that time, Jones was hospitalized with psychotic symptoms. Thereafter, she advised both her psychiatrist and the CNYDC psychologist that she was hearing voices tell her to hurt herself and others. Amazingly, Jones’ weapon was not confiscated at this time.

On July 25, 1993, Jones retrieved her firearm at QHD even though she was clearly intoxicated. Jones promptly returned home and shot herself. Jones claimed the voice of the devil told her to kill herself. Jones’ mother was present and rushed her to the hospital where she underwent emergency surgery.

Jones is now a severe spastic quadriplegic requiring 24-hour care in a nursing home. Her care costs approximately $123,000 annually and a lifetime of care was expected to cost $16 million.

Jones filed suit accusing CNYDC of negligently allowing her access to a firearm when she was clearly unfit to carry it. Jones claimed total lost wages equaling $702,380, which included $279,240 in past wages and $423,140 in future wages. After jury selection, Jones’ attorneys offered to settle for $10 million, but were countered with $3 million. The case proceeded through trial and during closing arguments a compromise was reached. Just after the defense team for CNYDC began its closing arguments, they agreed to settle for $7.25 million. See: Jones v. City of New York, New York Supreme Court of Queens County, No. 27845/1997.

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Related legal case

Jones v. City of New York