Cox’s suit against city moves forward with possible settlement discussions
In a recent filing, the city and plaintiff, Randy Cox who is suing New Haven in a civil case of police brutality, set forth rules for their $100 million settlement discussions.
Sophie Sonnenfeld, Contributing Photographer
Randy Cox’s civil case is moving forward, with all parties indicating they wish to seek a settlement.
On Friday, attorneys representing Cox, the city of New Haven and the New Haven Police Department officers involved in his case filed a Proposed Case Management Plan in his lawsuit over a June altercation with NHPD that left Cox permanently paralyzed. The plan mostly lays out agreed upon parameters for discovery if the case goes to trial, though both sides indicated in the filing a desire to settle the case.
“This agreement reflects the City’s ongoing desire to reach an early, reasonable settlement with Randy, and to engage in good faith settlement discussions as soon as both parties have sufficient information for them to begin,” wrote New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker in a press release.
Cox sustained spine and neck injuries — leaving him paralyzed — while being driven to a police station in a van without seat belts after being arrested for weapons charges that prosecutors later dropped.
The injuries occurred when the NHPD officer behind the wheel stopped abruptly to avoid a car crash while speeding. Instead of waiting for an ambulance, the officer drove Cox to the police detention center. Officers then dragged Cox out of the van, processed him in a wheelchair and put him into a holding cell — all without providing medical care. When Cox repeatedly told the officers that he could not move, one officer responded by telling Cox he “just drank too much.”
In late September, Cox’s attorneys filed a lawsuit against the city of New Haven for $100 million, claiming the NHPD violated his fourth and fourteenth amendment rights. At the time, New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said the city was open to a settlement. The suit was also filed against the five officers involved in the incident.
Those five officers remain on paid administrative leave and were arrested last week on misdemeanor charges brought by the state’s attorney office. Four of the five officers have since attempted to invoke qualified immunity in the civil case. The city has also responded to the lawsuit, claiming governmental immunity and contributory negligence as a defense, which has drawn the ire of Cox’s lawyers.
In a press conference held outside City Hall last week, Cox’s attorneys called on Elicker to support Cox’s recovery, but stopped short of asking directly for a settlement.
“We will listen objectively to anything the City says on Randy’s behalf. But what we won’t do is let them devalue him any further,” said Cox’s lawyer Ben Crump, a nationally renowned civil rights attorney.
The joint filing released on Friday includes language indicating that all parties are willing to discuss a settlement, and requests an early settlement conference between the parties.
That conference, which would be held with a magistrate judge, is not a guarantee of settlement, Connecticut American Civil Liberties Union Legal Director Dan Barrett told the News.
“Sometimes, even when the two sides are talking, once you add that structure of a judge helping you out and pushing you, you get closer to an agreement,” Barrett explained. “Nobody’s saying, ‘I definitely want to settle.’ They’re just saying, ‘I’m open to talking about settling.’”
Jack O’Donnell, one of Cox’s attorneys, echoed Barrett’s sentiment that the filing was nothing out of the ordinary. “We’ve just agreed to talk,” he said.
The filing also contains details of what both parties would be seeking in discovery, which is where the parties may request documents from each other and depose witnesses. Both the plaintiff, Cox, and the defendants, the city and the police officers, anticipate taking depositions from 10-12 witnesses, as well as calling expert witnesses at any potential trial.
Elicker emphasized that he saw the filing as a way for the city to remain prepared in any potential litigation.
“It also provides for long-term contingency planning, that each side has agreed upon, should this case go to trial,” he said. “I am encouraged by this progress and am confident we all will continue to work in a collaborative manner to ensure that justice is ultimately served.”
The five NHPD officers charged are set to appear in the Elm Street state courthouse Thursday morning.