CHICAGO, IL - Today, after more than six years of litigation, Segal McCambridge Singer & Mahoney obtained a landmark settlement of $22.5 million in Kathleen Paine v. City of Chicago, et al. The firm represented the Plaintiff, who filed suit on behalf of her daughter, Christina Eilman, 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. The settlement is reportedly the largest amount paid to a single plaintiff by the City of Chicago in its history. A federal trial had been scheduled to begin on January 22.
Christina Eilman was catastrophically injured with traumatic brain, spine, and other injuries during a 2006 visit while suffering from a bipolar manic episode at Chicago's Midway Airport. The young woman's behavior was reported to Chicago Police, who arrested her instead of seeking a mental health assessment. Although Ms. Eilman continued to show aberrant behavior, police transferred Ms. Eilman from the Eighth District station near the airport to the Second District station, located in one of the city's highest-crime neighborhoods. While in police custody, detention aides repeatedly ignored other detainees' concerns regarding Ms. Eilman. They also disregarded nine phone calls from Ms. Eilman's parents in California, in which they explained their daughter's history of bipolar disorder and voiced 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 in the surrounding neighborhood. Community residents reported that Ms. Eilman continued to show signs of a severe psychiatric episode. Within hours, Ms. Eilman was abducted and sexually assaulted by a gang member 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.
The Segal McCambridge trial team, led by Shareholder Jeffrey Singer, developed evidence confirming that Ms. Eilman was suffering from an obvious psychiatric episode, and that multiple Chicago Police officers deliberately failed to provide her with needed medical attention. The team also established that the defendant Chicago Police officers increased Ms. Eilman's exposure to danger by transferring her to the Second District, and releasing her there, knowing that the neighborhood was one of the most violent in the city and that she was particularly susceptible because she was suffering from a psychotic episode. At trial, Plaintiff's counsel 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 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 a statement, 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."