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Police found liable for $10 million in wrongful death

Government officials may be held liable if someone dies as a result of the official not meeting their duties. For example, a Hartford jury found that two Plainville police officers were negligent in the handling of a woman's complaints against her boyfriend who stabbed her in 2009. On April 27, following two days of deliberations, the jury awarded $10 million to her estate which is administered by her father.

The boyfriend stabbed the 25-year-old graduate student outside her apartment on Feb. 14, 2009. The plaintiff's complaint alleged that the victim did everything in her power to persuade the police to protect her from the boyfriend based upon his persistent and threatening conduct between the time a restraining order was issued and her murder. The suspect was sentenced to 60 years' imprisonment for murder and violation of a restraining order.

One of the Plainville Police officers was found negligent for calling the boyfriend the night the victim died and inadvertently tipping him off that she reported him for sending an email. His superior was also found negligent for not reading the email.

The plaintiffs also argued that the Plainfield Police did not adequately investigate the victim's complaint that the ex-boyfriend slashed her car tires two weeks before her murder or act upon anonymous but suspicious emails that he apparently sent to the victim. Police did not continue to conduct special patrols around the victim's apartment on the day that she died although there were phone calls and other activities by the ex-boyfriend.

Police officers from Waterbury and Bloomfield were also sued. Two Waterbury officers who dealt with the victim the day she died were found negligent. However, the city of Waterbury settled out of court before the beginning of the trial and will not have to contribute to the award. A judge found that Bloomfield Police were not culpable although the victim lived in that town.

Families who suffer the loss of a loved one through the actions of another person or entity may seek damages in a wrongful death action. Legal advice will help assure that a family's rights are protected in these cases.

Source: The Hartford Courant, "Jury awards $10M in wrongful death suit against police," Christine Dempsey, April 28, 2014

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