Joshua Messier was just 23 years old when he passed away five years ago at Bridgewater State Hospital, where he was a mental health patient. After a long battle, the family of Joshua Messier will receive a $3 million settlement stemming from a civil rights lawsuit alleging that prison guards were responsible for his death, according to Benjamin R. Novotny, an attorney for the parents.
The Boston Globe reports that Messier suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, and was killed when was strapped to a bed as “two of the guards pressed down hard on Messier’s back while he was seated on the bed with his hands cuffed behind him, folding his chest toward his knees, a maneuver sometimes called ‘suitcasing.'” This action is forbidden by state regulations because of the high risk of suffocation.
The death of the young man spurred an investigation by the Deval Patrick administration, which later placed three of the guards on duty on paid administrative leave, formally reprimanded two top correction officials, and asking for the resignation of a third official for failure to act on the findings.
Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley represented the guards and the officials from Bridgewater State Hospital, which is a medium-security prison that also provides mental health care to criminals and patients who have been involved in a crime. Attorney Novotny praised Coakley for pushing both sides toward a settlement after complications in the case would have led to more years of legal battles for a family still mourning the loss of their son.
According to the Globe, both sides were satisfied with the settlement. Messier family attorney Novotny commented that he believed the ruling was “fair because it does away with the risk of the state denying payment and the risk inherent in any jury trial.” Attorney General Martha Coakley responded in a statement that, “while nothing can bring back Joshua Messier to his family, we believe this will be a fair resolution to a sad case.”
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury or death while in state care or custody, we can help. At the Greater Boston Law Firm of Altman & Altman, LLP, our dedicated team of Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorneys has successfully handled personal injury and wrongful death cases involving the Department of Corrections for decades. While no amount of money will ever compensate for the true value of your loss and hardships, victims and their families may be entitled to financial relief through a Personal Injury or a Wrongful Death Lawsuit. Our experienced attorneys will leave no stone unturned and carefully walk you through each step of the process. We are happy to answer any questions you may have, and get you the compensation you deserve.
Rezendez, Micheal. The Boston Globe. “$3m settlement reached in Bridgewater hospital death.” March 26, 2014.