Sunday, July 18, 2010

State pays $90,000 to family of prisoner who died in custody

On January 15, 2010, the State of New Jersey, Department of Corrections agreed to pay $90,000 to the mother of a man who died at Eastern State Prison on April 23, 2007.

In her suit, Hazel Richardson, mother Rickie Allen Goldware, alleged that her son, classified as a psychiatric patient, was beaten by guards and forcibly medicated while strapped to a chair.

The case is captioned Richardson v. State of New Jersey, Federal Case No. 09-cv-01383 and the mother's attorney was Vijayant Pawar of Morristown. The lawsuit and settlement agreement are on-line here.

None of Richardson's allegations have been proven or disproven in court. The settlement agreement resolution expressly states that the $90,000 payment does not constitute an admission of wrongdoing by the Department of Corrections or any of its employees. All that is known for sure is that the State or its insurer, for whatever reason, decided that it would rather pay Richardson $90,000 than take the matter to trial. Perhaps the defendants' decision to settle was done to save further legal expense and the costs of trying what were in fact exaggerated or meritless claims. Or, perhaps the claims were true and the defendants wanted to avoid being embarrassed at trial. This is the problem when cases settle before trial--it is impossible to know the truth of what really happened.