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Pennsylvania wrongful death case settles out of court

These blogs are posted on behalf of Seidel, Cohen, Hof & Reid, LLC, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the firm or its attorneys. The information presented in this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice.

Losing a loved one is heart-rending no matter what the circumstance, but it can be especially difficult when that person dies in police custody. Pennsylvania residents typically expect law enforcement officials to protect the community rather than putting individuals at risk.

One family believes a police officer was responsible for their relative's death in 2004 and filed a wrongful death suit against their community, a former police chief and a former police captain.

The family's complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania claimed that Shenandoah Borough police beat the man to death while he was in their custody. The lawsuit also alleged that police then tried to cover their actions up by making the death appear to be a suicide. Supposedly the man was found hanging from the bars of his jail cell, as if he had killed himself.

The victim's parents had reportedly sought damages (both actual and punitive) of more than $150,000, not to mention costs and attorney's fees. They demanded a trial by jury and asserted that police officials violated their son's rights in several different ways. A judge agreed that they had demonstrated sufficient evidence to allow a jury trial.

Before the trial could actually commence, however, the opposing parties mediated their differences at a pretrial conference. This Pennsylvania wrongful death lawsuit will now reportedly settle for $600,000, though the Shenandoah Borough Council must first approve the settlement. Should they do so; a borough insurance pool will reportedly pay out the amount.

This family will undoubtedly mourn their son's loss for the rest of their lives, but it appears they have at least gained some measure of justice as well as reimbursement for damages they claim to have suffered.

Source: RepublicanHerald.com, "Wrongful death lawsuit against Shenandoah settled for $600,000," John E. Usalis, July 6, 2012

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