ROCKLAND, Maine — More than five years after a Knox County Jail inmate suffered extensive brain damage in a suicide attempt, his mother has settled a federal lawsuit over what she claimed was the deliberate indifference of the staff.
U.S. District Court Judge John Nivison held a settlement conference with the parties on Monday in Portland and the settlement was announced afterward. The judge ordered the transcript of the settlement sealed.
The federal lawsuit was filed by Cathy Penn of Waldoboro on behalf of her son Matthew Lalli who attempted suicide on Oct. 5, 2009, while awaiting trial for an assault charge and a probation violation. Penn sought money to cover the expected $9 million in medical and institutional costs for her son, who was 22 years old when he attempted to take his life.
Penn alleged in her lawsuit that the county violated her son’s constitutional rights because of its deliberate indifference to his threats that he was going to kill himself.
Peter Marchesi, Knox County’s attorney, said the settlement was structured so that it is confidential and details will not be revealed. He added, however, that the county has not incurred any costs with the lengthy legal case with insurance picking up the legal fees.
The attorney said he also understands the medical care for Lalli has been covered by government medical insurance programs.
Court records show that Lalli had made numerous threats to kill himself if he could not get out of jail to care for his young daughter. The assistant jail administrator had directed that Lalli be put in a special cell for inmates on suicide watch, but Lalli was instead placed in a regular cell and his bedding was not removed.
About a half hour after he was placed in the cell, Lalli was found hanging by bed sheets tied to a privacy partition in the cell.
Knox County had reached a partial settlement in the case in April that removed several of the defendants in the case. It still left two jail guards, Dane Winslow and Angela Escorsio, as defendants. Winslow was shift supervisor when Lalli was brought in, and Escorsio was a corrections officer on duty the day Lalli tried to kill himself.
That part of the case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Marchesi filed a petition in November for certiorari, which asked the country’s highest court to review the county’s appeal of a First Circuit court ruling that kept the two corrections officers as defendants.
Marchesi said the Supreme Court had not acted on the petition by the time Monday’s settlement was reached. That settlement now effectively ends the case, which had been scheduled for trial beginning on June 1.
Penn was represented by attorneys from the law firm of Pierce Atwood in Portland. A telephone message was left Tuesday morning with attorney Avery Day of Pierce Atwood but he was not immediately available.