MERIDEN — The city has settled a civil lawsuit filed over a 2016 jail cell hanging death for $1,393,000.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Erica Moreno, a 29-year-old city woman who hanged herself in a holding cell in January 2016. The lawsuit alleges police were negligent for failing to properly monitor Moreno in the holding cell, including not removing the drawstring she used to asphyxiate herself.
Corporation Counsel Michael Quinn said the city had a $100,0000 insurance deductible for the case, meaning the city will pay $100,000, and its insurance carrier will pay the remaining costs. The $100,000 will come out of a line in the Law Department’s budget for legal fees and settlement awards.
The city does not admit fault as part of the settlement, Quinn said.
“It is a tragedy any time someone loses their life, and these cases are very difficult,” Quinn said. “And I think at the end of the day it was an appropriate settlement.”
Police spokesman Sgt. Christopher Fry released the following statement Wednesday.
“The tragic death of Erica Moreno shocked many members of our department, especially those who struggled to preserve her life,” Fry said in an email. “While nothing can replace a loved one, we hope that this most recent settlement brings about some sense of closure as we move forward with Erica's family, as a police department and as a community, with a sense of understanding.”
The lawsuit was filed in June 2017 and a trial had been scheduled for early this year until the lawsuit was withdrawn last month after the settlement was reached.
Quinn said the city’s insurance carrier made the decision to settle the case. The settlement did not require City Council approval, he added.
The money will be awarded to the estate of Moreno, who has two surviving children.
"It is a tragedy any time someone loses their life, and these cases are very difficult. And I think at the end of the day it was an appropriate settlement."
-Corporation Counsel Michael Quinn
Attorney Steven J. Errante, who represented Moreno's estate, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. At the time he filed the lawsuit in 2017, he told the Record-Journal that the lawsuit was seeking “substantially more than $1 million.”
The lawsuit named eight officers, along with Police Chief Jeffry Cossette, as defendants.
An internal affairs investigation concluded two officers, Jimmy Fong and Margaret Smusz, violated policy by failing to remove the drawstring and properly supervise Moreno. They were given 30-day suspensions, with 15 days held in abeyance for two years.