Messier v. Bridgewater State Hospital Settlement Reached, $3 Million

2014 Medical Malpractice Trial Report

Wrongful death case: Kevin Messier, special personal representative of the Estate of Joshua Messier v. Bridgewater State Hospital, The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Departement of Corrections, et al.

Joshua Messier was a 23-year-old male with paranoid schizophrenia who died on 5/4/09 at Bridgewater State Hospital (BSH) after being restrained by correctional officers who used excessive force. The Medical Examiner (ME) ruled Joshua’s death a homicide by cardiopulmonary arrest during physical restraint with blunt impact of the head and compression of the chest while in an agitated state.

Joshua had a longstanding psychiatric history significant for schizophrenia, causing violent outbursts.

In April 2009, Joshua was admitted to BSH as a transfer from Dudley District Court under section 15(b) for an evaluation of his criminal responsibility in a pending assault and battery case.

On 5/4/09, after a visit with his mother, Joshua walked into the staff room – occupied by correction officers (CO’s). Soon thereafter, a struggle ensued between Joshua and the CO’s. Joshua was eventually placed in restraints and was transferred to the Intensive Treatment Unit (ITU).

On arrival to the ITU, witnesses noted that Joshua was gasping and had difficulty breathing. An inmate heard Joshua say, “I cannot breathe. ” He was also apologetic saying that he was “sorry” and that “he didn’t mean to do it. ”

Even though Joshua was calm in cooperative, he was esctored into a cell where he was placed into a bed (still cuffed at the ankles and wrists). Joshua was then put into 4-point restraints with the use of physical force. While his feet were being placed in the restraints with his hands still cuffed behind his back, CO Howard pushed on Joshua’s back, collapsing him forward. At one point, CO Howard admitted to using the bed for “leverage. ” To make matters worse, CO Belladeau and CO Raposo further compressed Joshua by pushing on CO Howard’s back.

Once in restraints, Joshua’s lifeless body was laid flat – not talking, not moving, not breathing. He had blood on his face. Approximately 10 minutes went by before Joshua was evaluated by medical staff. On evaluation, Joshua had no pulse.

Joshua was eventually transferred to Brockton Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

In addition to the ME ruling Joshua’s death a homicide, multiple areas of trauma were noted on his body. He had injuries to his head, neck, torso, and extremities. He even had hemorrhages in his brain.

The defense claimed that Joshua was at least partially responsible for his death due to his struggling with the correctional officers. The defense also asserted numerous defenses regarding limits to liability and sovereign immunity. The case settled for $3,000,000.00 following the depositions of the correctional officers.

Suffolk Superior Court:
Attorneys for the plaintiff: Andrew C. Meyer, Jr. and Benjamin Novotny

See related news coverage:

Death on the ITU: video reveals fatal restraint by prison guards
Fox25, Nov. 15, 2012

Patient’s Death After Scuffle Ruled a Homicide
The Boston Globe, March 10, 2010


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