In a type of case that is a hybrid between a Massachusetts personal injury suit and a civil rights claim, the City of Attleboro, Massachusetts has agreed to pay a 17 year-old girl $100,000 in damages to settle a suit against the city alleging excessive use of force, and police brutality.
Esther Durex, then 16 years old at the time of the incident on October 12 2008, said she was beaten by police after leaving a party on that date last year. The settlement was negotiated with the city by the youth’s attorney, and was approved recently by Judge Robert Kane of Fall River Superior Court. Reportedly, the settlement will be paid by the city’s insurance company. The settlement required a judge’s approval because the plaintiff is a minor.
Durex’s attorney, David Cass, calling her a “model student,” said the Attleboro High School senior was stopped and eventually arrested by police after leaving a party on the date in question. He said his client was struck by officers with clubs in the head, legs and arms. Durex suffered a broken wrist in the incident. The victim incurred approximately $2,700 in medical bills and has had to receive psychological counseling as a result of the incident, according to her attorney.
According to a police report filed in the incident, officers who had been called to investigate a loud party found the girl walking on Leedham Street in Attleboro. Officers claimed in the report that Durex was swaying and slurring her words as though under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The report also said the girl refused a ride home, used profane language and had to be restrained after becoming disorderly and wandering into the street. Police also charged the teen with assaulting officers Matthew Cook and Christopher Ulbrich, along with disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace. The teen denied ever assaulting the police. Further, All charges against Durex were dismissed in juvenile court, according to her lawyer for that proceeding. Police Chief Richard Pierce could not be reached for comment by reporters.
This settlement isn’t reported here to advance the idea that police officers regularly abuse innocent civilians. In my experience as a former Special Assistant District Attorney for Norfolk County and a practicing Boston personal injury lawyer, I believe the majority of police officers are ethical and responsible law enforcement professionals. But occasionally, as in any profession or vocation, there are a few bad apples, and it’s important to be vigilant about this possibility, especially when dealing with authority figures such as police officers. When such civil rights violations occur, they can be prosecuted in either state or federal court, depending on the circumstances, and jury verdicts and settlements can be substantial, assuming the evidence in the plaintiff’s favor is persuasive. It should be noted that the evidence in this case (with a 16 year-old girl suffering a broken wrist,) was apparently quite clear, thus providing for a rapid and appropriate financial settlement with the city.
Our office has handled such claims in the past. If you feel that you or someone you now has clearly been the victim of such excessive force, contact us for a free consultation.