CHICAGO, Jan. 17, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- The family of a mentally ill 28-year-old California woman who suffered severe injuries after Chicago Police released her in one of the city's most violent neighborhoods has attained a landmark settlement with the City of Chicago.
Today, the City Council approved a $22.5 million settlement for the family of Christina Eilman, who was catastrophically injured during a 2006 visit after she suffered a bipolar manic episode at Chicago's Midway Airport. The young woman's behavior was reported to Chicago Police, who – instead of seeking a mental health assessment – escorted her out of the airport to a nearby light rail station. There, the commuter rail supervisor again reported Ms. Eilman's unusual behavior to Chicago police officers on duty. Instead of seeking a mental health assessment, the officers arrested Ms. Eilman.
Although she continued to show aberrant behavior, police transferred Ms. Eilman from a police station near the airport to another station in one of the city's highest-crime neighborhoods. While in police custody, detention aides repeatedly ignored other detainees' concerns regarding Ms. Eilman. Jeffrey Singer, a shareholder of Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney and lead Plaintiff's counsel, reports that while she was in custody, Ms. Eilman's parents called Chicago police nine times from their home in California, explaining their daughter's history of bipolar disorder and voicing concerns for her safety upon release.
After spending more than 28 hours in police custody, Ms. Eilman was discharged and left to wander through the unfamiliar streets of the surrounding neighborhood. Chicago police data show individuals in that community are 15 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than in the area where Ms. Eilman was first arrested. Community residents reported that Ms. Eilman showed signs of a severe psychiatric episode.
Within hours, Ms. Eilman was abducted and sexually assaulted in a nearby high-rise public housing project. It is believed she attempted to escape her attacker by jumping from a seventh floor window opening. She survived the fall but suffered permanent traumatic brain injury, partial paralysis, and residual injuries to her spine, pelvis, and leg. Ms. Eilman now resides with her parents in Northern California and requires around-the-clock care.
A federal trial had been scheduled to begin on January 22, more than six years after the suit was filed. Attorneys for the Eilman family planned to argue that the Chicago Police personnel failed to provide Ms. Eilman with access to mental health care while in police custody, violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and Ms. Eilman's constitutional rights.
The $22.5 million settlement is reportedly the largest amount paid to a single plaintiff by the City of Chicago in its history. The settlement assures that Ms. Eilman's extensive medical care and living needs will be secured for the rest of her life. In announcing the resolution of the case from Segal McCambridge's Chicago office, Singer said the family was satisfied with the settlement though devastated by what happened to their daughter.
In the family statement referenced below, Ms. Eilman's parents said: "It is a bittersweet victory since no amount of money will bring back the daughter we knew, the lovely young woman who was full of life and accepting of all people. Her life was dramatically changed after she came to Chicago and found herself in the grasp of several insensitive and uncaring police officers and detention aides who humiliated her, directed cruel and insensitive comments toward her, ignored her desperate need for help, and placed her in harm's way."
Singer said the case underscores the need for policy changes regarding personnel training in the Chicago Police Department. "This case illustrates the importance of training police personnel to ensure mentally ill detainees are not ignored but are provided access to care. Tragedies such as this are entirely preventable," he said. "Police departments claim they are committed to 'serve and protect,' but carrying out that commitment requires police officers and detention aides to be better equipped to provide access to resources to help individuals with special needs."
The Segal McCambridge trial team also included Shareholder William Mahoney, Of Counsel Kimberly Kayiwa, and Associates Misty Martin and Mitchell Morinec.
Statement by Kathleen and Richard Paine Regarding $22.5 Million Settlement with City of Chicago for their Daughter, Christina Eilman
We wish to thank all the fine people of Chicago who have shown so much sensitivity and support to Christina and the rest of our family, from the incredible medical staff at both Stroger Hospital and RIC, to all the people that helped us during the 5 months we stayed in Chicago by our daughter's side. Your words of encouragement and righteous anger for the disregard that certain members of your city's police department showed our daughter helped maintain our spirit and our strength during 6 ½+ years of litigation. Christina's injuries – especially her brain damage – are permanent and now, finally, after an inordinate delay, she will have the financial resources necessary to get the extensive therapies and treatment she needs to help improve her life.
It is a bittersweet victory since no amount of money will bring back the daughter we knew, the lovely young woman who was full of life and accepting of all people. Her life was dramatically changed after she came to Chicago and found herself in the grasp of several insensitive and uncaring police officers and detention aides who humiliated her, directed cruel and insensitive comments toward her, ignored her desperate need for help, and placed her in harm's way.
We are very pleased with this settlement as it will provide the support and resources she will need for the rest of her life. But we won't forget those police officers who seemed to go out of their way to expose our daughter to becoming assaulted and to come so close to death. To those few officers who attempted to help her, we offer our thanks. Still, we will not forget those in command nor those who had the chance to offer assistance and consciously chose not to.
Kathleen and Richard Paine, Parents of Christina Eilman
About Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney, Ltd.
Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney is a litigation firm that provides legal services to clients involved in complex products liability, toxic tort, commercial, employment and labor law, insurance, construction, environmental, professional liability, transportation, and warranty matters. Founded in 1986 as a 4-lawyer shop in Chicago, today Segal McCambridge is a national law firm with more than 150 attorneys and offices in Austin, Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, Jersey City, New York City, and Philadelphia. Visit www.smsm.com to learn more.
SOURCE Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney, Ltd.