New York — This 27-year-old woman was pregnant when she was arrested in the Bronx. She was then held without bail for 79 days despite the fact that she insisted there was a mistaken identity. She was held based on a warrant out of Kentucky for someone with the same name and date of birth. Her baby was born while the woman was still in jail. The woman contended that her lawyer and the City of New York did not listen to her and were liable for emotional injuries that they caused. She came to the injury law firm of Morrison & Wagner and filed a lawsuit. They negotiated a settlement for $500,000 to compensate the victim.
Illustrative Photo Credit: Sara Jo [License]
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Arrestee claimed lawyer, DA, ignored mistaken-identity proof (VerdictSearch)
Total Settlement Amount: $500,000
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Court: Bronx Supreme, Bronx County, New York
mental/psychological – emotional distress
Case Type: Government – Police, Municipalities; Legal Profession – Malpractice; Government – False Imprisonment; Intentional Torts – False Arrest; Worker/Workplace Negligence – Negligent Training
Date: March 21, 2012
Eric H. Morrison; Morrison & Wagner; New York, NY
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On Feb. 2, 2007, the plaintiff, a 27-year-old unemployed pregnant woman, was arrested. Firearms, marijuana and a scale — apparently used for the processing of illegal drugs — had been found in her residence, an apartment building that was located in the Concourse section of the Bronx. The plaintiff’s boyfriend, who shared the apartment, was also arrested.
During the processing of the woman’s arrest, a police officer learned that the state of Kentucky had an outstanding warrant for a woman with the same name whose birth date matched that of he plaintiff in the instant case. As such, the the plaintiff was deemed a flight risk and denied bail.
The woman claimed that she was not the woman who was the subject of Kentucky’s warrant. Her lawyer was unable to prove that claim, and the plaintiff’s imprisonment lasted 79 days — until the district attorney determined that the materials found in her department were her boyfriend’s possessions and until Kentucky officials located the woman who was the actual subject of the warrant. During her imprisonment, the woman’s baby was born.
The plaintiff sued the city of New York. She alleged that she was falsely arrested and imprisoned, that the city was negligent in its oversight and training of the district attorney who managed her case, and that the actions of the district attorney and the arresting police officer constituted a violation of her civil rights and allowed recovery via application of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
In a separate filing, the woman sued her former lawyer. She alleged that he failed to properly defend her case. She further alleged that his failure constituted malpractice.
The cases were consolidated.
The plaintiff claimed that her former lawyer and the district attorney ignored evidence that confirmed that she was not the individual who was the subject of Kentucky’s warrant. She contended that medical, prison and school records demonstrated that she and the other woman had different middle names, different facial features and different skin tone. She claimed that the documents were given to her lawyer and the district attorney, but that neither party’s files or records indicate that a mistaken-identity defense had been asserted or investigated.
The arrested woman also claimed that her former lawyer failed to rigorously assert a defense and instead repeatedly recommended extradition.
The city’s counsel contended that the plaintiff’s former lawyer did not assert a mistaken-identity defense. They claimed that such an assertion would have triggered an immediate investigation. They also claimed that the plaintiff’s fingerprints matched those of the woman who was the subject of Kentucky’s warrant.
The jailed woman’s former lawyer contended that he repeatedly contacted the district attorney’s office to assert a mistaken-identity defense. He also noted that the plaintiff’s imprisonment lasted 79 days — one day short of the state penal code’s 80-day requirement for timely discharges.
The plaintiff endured 79 days of imprisonment. Her child was born during her imprisonment.
The woman sought recovery of economic damages and damages for her past and future emotional suffering. Her former lawyer was not legally liable for noneconomic damages.
The parties negotiated a pretrial settlement. The city agreed to pay $495,000, and the plaintiff’s former lawyer agreed to pay $5,000. Thus, the settlement totaled $500,000.
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Judge: Larry S. Schachner
Editor’s Comment: This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s counsel and counsel of the city of New York. The lawyer’s counsel did not respond to the reporter’s phone calls.