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Assaulted in Jail


Officer Darden was called to a residence in response to a call from Steven Furman's ¹ family that Steven was acting strange and they were concerned for his safety.

Officer Darden found twenty three year old Steven Furman to be acting irrational, violent at times and subject to severe mood swings. One moment, Steven Furman was swearing and threatening harm and the next moment, he was making pleasant conversation. With the assistance of other responding officers, Steven Furman was subdued and taken into protective custody. At the station, Steven Furman was placed in a holding cell. The Chief ordered he be held until he could be safely moved by emergency medical technicians to an area hospital for crisis evaluation.

At the Chief's direction, Officer Darden along with other officers monitored Furman's condition. He was at times violent, swearing, striking his head against the cell walls and wreaking havoc with the urinal in the cell. After he had finally calmed down, the Chief ordered Officer Darden and another officer to remove Furman and turn him over to the EMT's who stood by. Furman stood still in the middle of the cell, handcuffed behind his back, as the cell door was opened. As Officer Darden entered the cell, Steven Furman lunged forward striking Officer Darden with his head under Darden's chin. Officer Darden fell backwards unconscious striking and injuring both elbows on the cell floor. While he lay there unconscious, Furman continued to kick him until he was restrained by the other officers. Furman would later give a recorded statement that he intended to hurt Officer Darden and waited till he got close enough, so he could spring on him and give him a good shot.

Steven Furman was brought to the hospital where it was determined he was suffering from a mental illness and he was subsequently admitted for a week to a psychiatric hospital where his condition was stabilized with medication.
Officer Darden had suffered a career ending injury at the age of thirty four. The damage to the ulnar nerves in his elbows prevented him from returning to work. Rather than pay him 100% of his base wages pursuant to G.L. c. 41, §111F, the Town opted to put him in for an involuntary disability pension at 72% of his base pay, which was eventually approved.

Although he made the inquiries about what else he could do, Officer Darden was told there was no other avenues to pursue. Two years later, Officer Darden contacted my office.

After an extensive investigation, I located an insurance policy. That insurance company eventually denied Officer Darden's claim under an exclusion for intentional conduct. The exclusion provided that anyone insured on the policy, who expects or intends to injure another by his act, will not be covered under the policy for injuries resulting therefrom. As discussed, Steven Furman gave the insurance company a recorded statement where he stated that he intended to hurt Officer Darden. This statement fit squarely within the exclusion.

However, Officer Darden agreed to press on. We filed suit against Steven Furman. His insurance company then filed a separate lawsuit asking the Court to declare the exclusion applied. We countered the insurance company by arguing that Steven Furman was insane at the time of the attack and could not rationally and intelligently form the requisite intent to harm.

Officer Darden's case was complicated by the fact that Steven Furman was doing nothing to help himself. In all prior reported cases involving similar issues, the insured wanted the insurance company to cover the claim. In this case, Steven Furman conducted himself as though he didn't care about being personally liable: it appeared he did not want the insurance coverage which we sought for Officer Darden. In order to bolster Officer Darden's case, we retained as an expert witness, a prominent psychiatrist who taught at Harvard Medical School, to testify that Steven Furman was in the psychotic phase of a mental illness at the time of the incident and thus could not form the requisite intent.

The case finally settled for $150,000 prior to a hearing which would have determined whether the insurance company could escape liability, based upon Steven Furman's later statement that he knew what he was doing when he struck and injured Officer Darden. This case is instructive to other injured officers now and in the future. Injured officers should always seek a consultation with an experienced attorney to determine what rights they may have and what avenues should be pursued. The base wages paid an injured officer under G.L. c. 41, §111F and related laws are never enough to properly compensate an injured officer for his lost detail and overtime pay, pain and suffering, disability, and scarring. With the high cost of living facing all officers, injured officers should always explore their legal rights to collect additional compensation which they are legally entitled to and which they deserve.

In any event, as with all claims there are no guarantees. Many police injury cases involve sophisticated legal issues, problems of proof, technical insurance policy coverage disputes and issues which arise under Massachusetts General Laws ch. 41, § 100 and § 111F and related laws. I handle these cases on a contingent fee basis where the injured officer need only pay for legal services if I successfully collect money on the claim. The fee is typically one third of the money collected and if I fail to collect money for the injured officer, the officer will owe nothing for legal services, except in some cases for out of pocket expenses.

¹ The officer’s name has been changed to protect his privacy. He has consented to having the facts of his case written about to help educate other officers about their rights. The name of the Defendant has also been changed. The similarity between the officer’s and or the defendant’s names with real persons living or deceased is merely coincidental and not intended.


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