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Massachusetts wrongful death: 5 New Bedford cops sued

A wrongful death lawsuit is not limited to a fatal motor vehicle accident. Massachusetts law provides that any fatality which results from the negligent or intentional conduct of another party can properly be the subject of a wrongful death claim. In order to prevail, the victim’s surviving family must prove that negligence occurred in a manner that caused or contributed to the death that resulted. One incident recently reported involves an individual who died while in police custody in New Bedford.

The death occurred more than two years ago. The 42-year-old man was in police custody, though the reason for his detention is not clear. His family has now pressed forward with a wrongful death action against five Massachusetts police officers. Crucial evidence upon which the family relies in bringing the federal lawsuit is a surveillance video which recorded the events upon which the legal claims are based.

The video apparently shows that the man was pepper sprayed by one police officer, who also placed handcuffs on him. While the man thereafter was face down on the ground, the group of police officers are said to have ignored the man for at least 10 minutes before calling for medical assistance. It is claimed that the negligence of the officers in failing to adequately care for an individual in their custody led to the victim’s death.

While New Bedford’s Mayor noted that no comment would be made concerning the pending wrongful death lawsuit, it was reported that the officers were dealt with administratively as a result of the incident. No details of that action were divulged. As the family moves forward with its claim, it will have the opportunity to prove that the actions complained of constituted negligence under Massachusetts law. If that is established, the family will then also need to prove that any negligence documented actually caused or contributed to the death of the man in their custody. Other Massachusetts residents could look into the laws surrounding wrongful death and consult an attorney to see how to proceed if they should find themselves in a similar situation.

Source: ABC6, “Family of Man Who Died in Police Custody Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit,” Melissa Toupin, Oct. 2, 2012