Chicago Gets New Trial on $5M Damages

     CHICAGO (CN) – The 7th Circuit ordered a limited retrial to determine if a jury’s $5 million award to the son of a woman who died while in police custody was improperly inflated.
     Patricia Cobige was arrested in 2006 and held in a Chicago jail, where she suffered extreme abdominal pain, her cellmate testified.
     Though the pain rendered Cobige unable to appear in court for her bond hearing, she did not receive medical attention.
     Officer Rene Dimalanta allegedly instructed guards to turn a deaf ear to Cobige’s complaints and prevented her from going to the hospital.
     A post-mortem assessment found uterine tumors, which Northwestern medical Professor Dan Fintel testified caused pain-driven adrenaline rushes. The adrenaline exacerbated a heart condition and cause Cobige’s heart arrhythmia and death.
     Cobige’s 27-year-old son sued, alleging state and federal law violations, and violations of his mother’s constitutional rights.
     A jury found the officers guilty of state-law negligence and infliction of cruel and unusual punishment. The jury awarded just over $5 million in damages, to be paid by the City of Chicago.
     On appeal, Chicago challenged the district court’s decision to suppress Patricia Cobige’s extensive criminal history from the jury during the damages assessment. This was a misstep, the 7th Circuit determined.
     “Just as Maurice Cobige was entitled to paint a favorable view of his mother’s ability to give sage advice and emotional support … Chicago was entitled to introduce evidence suggesting that Patricia Cobige was not likely to assist others of to have enjoyed life to the extent that her son narrated,” Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook wrote.
     The court ordered a new trial limited to damages.
     Patricia Cobige was arrested on June 10, 2006 and pronounced dead at 1:30 a.m. on June 12.

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