Judge Tosses Suit Over Man’s Death in Custody

     (CN) – The family of a mentally ill man who hung himself from his shackles while in police custody must amend their complaint considerably if they want to sue for damages, a federal judge ruled.
     In a complaint filed in the Brevard County Circuit Court on May 26, Katrina Hughey says the Indian Harbor Beach police officers who arrested her father Metz Hughey on the day he died, April 27, 2013, were well aware that he had recently been involuntarily committed for a psychiatric examination, and that he was “was visibly and obviously in great emotional and psychological distress during the arrest process.”
     She claims that Hughey told the officers “over 20 times” that he was suicidal and would commit suicide if taken to jail, and that he also pleaded to be taken in for a mental health evaluation.
     Despite this, Katrina Hughey says, the officers “ignored these pleas for help and suicidal threats … continued to conduct the arrest process and repeatedly told Metz Hughey he was going to jail.”
     “Metz Hughey committed suicide in the back of the transport van by strangling himself with the chains used to handcuff and shackle him,” the complaint says.
     Katrina Hughey claims the officers were negligent in their handling of the situation, that they should have recognized that Metz Hughey was a threat to himself, and that they should notifying the transport deputy of the excited man’s threats.
     But on June 23, U.S. District Judge Roy Dalton Jr. tossed the case on a technicality: Katrina Hughey failed to respond to the defendants’ motions to dismiss.
     In their motions for dismissal, the city of Indian Harbour Beach and its police department, and Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivy and his department argued that Hughey has sued the wrong parties, and even if she had sued the correct parties, she failed, utterly to state a legitimate claim.
     Judge Dalton said the motions for dismissal were filed on June 2, 2015, and that Hughey had 14 days to answer them. “Allotting three additional days for service … Plaintiff’s responses to Defendants’ Motions were due by June 19, 2015. The June 19 deadline has passed, and Plaintiff still has not filed any responses in opposition to the Motions.”
     Dalton said he would allow Hughey to filed an amended complaint prior to July 6. “Failure to file an amended complaint will result in a dismissal with prejudice,” he said.
     Katrina Hughey is represented by Cocoa, Fla.-based attorney Steve Wolverton, who did not immediately respond to request for comment from Courthouse News.

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