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California: CDCR Pays $475,000 to Settle Wrongful Death Suit

In November 2009, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) entered into a Settlement Agreement with the parents and siblings of Joseph Sullivan who, in June 2006, took his own life while incarcerated at Chuckawalla Valley State Prison (CVSP). The Settlement Agreement calls for CDCR to pay $475,000 to the Sullivan family and their attorneys in exchange for a dismissal of the federal complaint they filed, as well as a release of all claims related to the death of Joseph Sullivan. No admission of liability attaches to the Settlement Agreement.
The Sullivans were represented by attorneys Abraham Goldman and David Springfield of Oregon House, California. In August 2007, they filed a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging the Joseph Sullivan, who was found hanging in a one-man administrative segregation (ad/seg) cell, had been “killed… by physical assault and/or other foul play from unknown persons inside” CVSP. The complaint alleged that, for a period of about three months beginning in March 2006, CVSP officials kept Joseph Sullivan isolated in an ad/seg cell with temperatures at or exceeding 120 degrees Fahrenheit; that CVSP officials repeatedly denied Joseph’s request for yard time; that they forged his signature to an authorization for use of psychotropic drugs; that they placed him in proximity to other prisoners who mentally and emotionally harassed him and caused him sleep deprivation; that they “forced” him to ingest large doses of psychotropic medications, without his consent, to punish him and/or as a chemical restraint; and they were deliberately indifferent to his medical and mental health needs, as well as to their duty to protect him. The complaint set forth four federal causes of action and one state-law wrongful death claim. It sought compensatory as well as punitive and exemplary damages. See: Sullivan v. Salazar, U.S.D.C. (C.D. Cal.), Case No. 2:07-cv-05675-GW-SH.

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Related legal case

Sullivan v. Salazar