The City agreed Monday to pay nearly $3.9 million to the families of people who died in Chicago police custody after police officers or lockup personnel ignored obvious signs of medical distress.
City council approved a settlement of more than $2 million in the case Cobige v. City of Chicago, 06 C 3807. Patricia Cobige died in the CPD’s 25th District lockup on June 12, 2006, two days after her arrest on drug charges. Her cell mate testified that Cobige was repeatedly asking for help and complained of severe abdominal pain, but was ignored by lockup personnel. Testimony at trial showed that the officers refused to take Cobige to bond court because she was so ill. According to court documents, medical evidence at trial established that Cobige had uterine tumors that would have caused pain. A doctor testified that her severe pain elevated epinephrine levels in her system, aggravating her pre-existing heart condition, and ultimately causing her death.
A Northern District jury awarded Ms. Cobige’s adult son Maurice $5 million after a jury trial before Judge Amy St. Eve. The city appealed to the Seventh Circuit, which upheld the verdict on liability, but remanded for a new trial on damages, finding that certain evidence of Ms. Cobige’s criminal history should have been admitted as relevant to damages. The Seventh Circuit opinion is available here. Rather than roll the dice again, the City settled.
City Council also approved a $1 million settlement in McMullan v. City. In that case, a 52-year-old man died in CPD’s central detention. He was found dead in full rigor mortis, hours after he passed away. According to news reports, other people in the lock up were prepared to testify that he had been screaming in pain for a long time, but received no medical attention.