The brother of a detainee who hung himself at the St. Clair County jail in May 2014 has been awarded $301,000 following a wrongful death trial that played out in federal court in Benton against Sheriff Rick Watson and the county.
Jurors found in favor of Dwayne White, as administrator of the estate of Bradley Scarpi, awarding $150,000 in compensatory damages on failure to protect claims and $1,000 in punitive damages for failing to protect Scarpi after he said he was going to kill himself while in custody.
They also awarded $150,000 in damages on White's wrongful death claim, though jurors found in favor of the Sheriff's Department on White's constitutional claims.
The trial, presided over by Senior U.S. District Judge Phil Gilbert, began Monday, Dec. 3, and ended with the plaintiff's verdict on Friday, Dec. 7.
According to White's complaint, Scarpi had been a roofer, known to be a hard worker until a job-related back injury interrupted his career and caused him to become addicted to pain pills.
Because of his addiction, over the course of 11 years, Scarpi "spent a great deal of time cycling in and out of the St. Clair County Jail," White claimed.
According to White, while his brother was detained on May 23, 2014, he informed jail personnel that other detainees were threatening him. Thereafter, a sergeant responded by placing Scarpi in a maximum security cell block.
Scarpi was alleged to have died because jail employees failed to protect him and "went so far as to encourage him to kill himself," White claimed.
"Once placed in a maximum security cell, Mr. Scarpi actively voiced his intent to commit suicide," the complaint alleged. "Upon being made aware of Mr. Scarpi’s suicidal ideation, one sheriff’s deputy responded, 'Whatever, do what you want to do.' Jail officials failed to take any efforts to protect or appropriately supervise Mr. Scarpi. Approximately five hours after being re-housed in the maximum security cell, Jail officials found Mr. Scarpi hanging in his cell. Mr. Scarpi was transported to the hospital where he died less than an hour later."
White was represented by Amy Breihan of the MacArthur Justice Center in St. Louis, attorneys from the MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago, and LaToya Berry of Belleville.
The defendants were represented by Katherine Melzer, Thomas Ysursa and Garrett Hoerner of Becker, Hoerner, Thompson & Ysursa in Belleville.