February 11, 2013

Parents of 7 Year-Old File Notice of Intent to Sue Police for Allegedly Handcuffing, Interrogating Child for 10 Hours

by Lebowitz & Mzhen

file0001127388145.jpgThe parents of a seven year-old Bronx boy filed a notice of a claim against the New York City Police Department for $250 million. Another student at their son’s elementary school accused the boy of stealing five dollars from him, and the parents allege that the police drastically overreacted by detaining him for ten hours. The claim, filed with city officials, is a required step prior to filing a lawsuit for damages against the city.

Police say that they responded to a report of a robbery and assault at PS X114 in the Bronx at around 10:20 a.m. on December 4, 2012, four days after the alleged offense occurred. The child claiming to be the victim of the robbery, a nine year-old whom we shall refer to as A., alleged that another boy, seven year-old W., punched and shoved him, then took five dollars out of his pocket. This occurred off school grounds. A. described W. to the media as “the worst bully,” claiming that W. routinely harassed him. W. denied A.’s allegations, saying that the money had fallen to the ground, and that another boy picked it up. W.’s family alleged that another boy later admitted to the theft.

Instead of sending W. to the principal’s office, the school called the police, who allegedly pulled W. out of class and detained him at the school for about four hours. They then took W. to the 44th Precinct. W.’s mother, Frances Mendez, says that she was not allowed to see W. when she arrived at the station. When officers eventually allowed Mendez and her sister to see W., they claim that they found him in a panicked state with his left wrist handcuffed to a wall. W. allegedly spent six hours at the precinct. Mendez claims that officers “verbally, physically, and emotionally abused” W. during this time, and that they also “intimidated, humiliated, embarrassed and defamed” him.

W. was charged with robbery, but prosecutors dropped the charges on December 26. The NYPD denied any mistreatment of W., and claimed that they treated him as they do any other juvenile suspect. An NYPD source said that W. arrived at the precinct at about 3:00 p.m. and left with his mother and aunt around 7:45 p.m. That would still constitute a total time period of almost ten hours, but the police deny any improper treatment of the child.

Mendez filed a claim against the city and the NYPD in late January 2013. Although several news sources describe it as a “lawsuit,” it is probably a Notice of Claim, a prerequisite to any lawsuit claiming damages against the city, including injuries and civil rights violations. The doctrine of sovereign immunity prohibits lawsuits against the state unless expressly authorized by law or contract. Most jurisdictions have an agency or office tasked with receiving and evaluating claims for damages. The amount of damages that Mendez is claiming, $250 million, may prove to be higher than she could obtain at trial, but this phase is primarily intended to present a claim to the government in an effort to settle before suit.

The personal injury lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen are skilled at pursuing justice for people in Maryland who have been injured due to the illegal or negligent acts of others, including police brutality or abuse of power. Contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949 for a free and confidential consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Federal Lawsuit Alleges Police Brutality; Local DA Declines to Prosecute Officers, Maryland Accident Law Blog, August 13, 2012

Lawsuit Alleges Prison Nurse Denied Emergency Medical Care to Inmate, Maryland Accident Law Blog, August 7, 2012

Legislator Awarded $50,000 in Suit for Damages Caused by Tight Handcuffs, Maryland Accident Law Blog, January 2, 2012

Photo credit: drowninsanity from morguefile.com.