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Suffolk settles lawsuit with former inmate for $1.35 million

Suffolk County has agreed to pay $1.35 million to settle a federal negligence lawsuit by a former inmate who was severely brain-injured and paralyzed when he jumped off a second-story jail tier on Christmas Eve 2011, after repeatedly telling officials and police he was suicidal.

The county authorized borrowing to pay the settlement at the June 16 county legislature meeting in Riverhead, but county attorneys only disclosed the plaintiff's name, Michael Gurrieri, late last week.

The case was settled during trial before U.S. District Judge Leonard Wexler on April 8. Settlements included other parties to the case, Huntington Hospital and a psychiatrist who worked for the hospital, but details were not public. Robert Spragg, Gurrieri's attorney, declined to comment, saying the settlements are confidential.

"The person was seriously injured," County Attorney Dennis Brown said. "It was a reasonable settlement in light of all his injuries."

In court papers, Gurrieri's attorneys said their client repeatedly told police, hospital and jail officials that he was suicidal and had earlier made attempts to take his own life. Their suit states officials ignored his requests to be placed in a psychiatric ward, failed to give him needed medication for bipolar disorder and "deliberately failed to protect plaintiff from self-inflicted harm while in their custody."

Gurrieri, who at the time was living with his parents in Dix Hills, was arrested three days before the incident on a misdemeanor domestic violence complaint by his then-girlfriend.

Gurrieri pleaded not guilty to the charges, according to court papers, and his attorneys say the charges later were dropped. Court papers also say Gurrieri earlier had been in custody on suspicion of drug-related offenses.

His parents told police that before Gurrieri was taken into custody, he took an unknown number of pills and had written a suicide note on their computer, indicating he was "severely depressed." However, the hospital's doctor found him "fit for confinement," legal papers say.

Gurrieri, a pretrial detainee, jumped from an upper level walkway on the second mezzanine at the county jail in Riverhead, court papers say. Gurrieri hit the floor head first, suffered a spinal cord fracture, multiple fractures to his neck and back, and had a severe brain injury, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

His attorney says he lives in a nursing home and that he and his family would not comment.

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