settlements to go public
By Mikaela Porter, Hartford Courant
Published: December 19, 2017
Enfield town officials have settled the last of nearly a dozen police brutality lawsuits naming former officer Matthew Worden and, for the first time, complied with state law by releasing settlement information allocated to the family in the most recently resolved case.
In response to a December 2014 civil lawsuit naming Worden, Aime Olschafskie is to receive $140,000, according to Town Attorney Christopher Bromson. Olschafskie filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of the estate of her son, Tyler Damato, who died in February 2013 at the age of 20. The $140,000 settlement will be paid by the town’s former insurance carrier, CIRMA.
The town has paid roughly $225,000 to settle nine lawsuits filed against Worden, other officers and the police department — a $25,000 deductible to CIRMA for each settlement. Bromson said Tuesday the town would also formally withdraw an appeal of a Freedom of Information Commission ruling ordering the town to retrieve the settlement information regarding the nine lawsuits.
Bromson said he would reach out to CIRMA’s attorney Tuesday for those settlement amounts. Attorney James Tallberg, representing CIRMA, declined comment Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Bromson said town council members were reluctant to settle a number of the lawsuits because they didn’t think officers had committed any wrongdoing. If the council did not agree to settle the lawsuits, CIRMA would have withdrawn from the cases, meaning the town would have had to hire its own attorneys and any settlements above those outlined in the agreements would be paid by the town, Bromson said.
According to the lawsuit complaint filed in 2014, Damato suffered from a traumatic brain injury as a result of a car accident in October 2012, and two months later when responding to a call at Olschafskie’s home for reports that Damato was expressing suicidal thoughts, Worden “smashed [Damato’s] head into the asphalt multiple times and tazed him twice, before kneeling on his head,” according to the lawsuit.
According to the suit, Olschafskie “explained Tyler’s situation and repeatedly emphasized that because Damato had suffered a recent, serious traumatic brain injury, they should be gentle with him and make sure he did not hit his head because this could aggravate his brain injury and he could potentially die if he hit his head.”
Damato agreed to go to the hospital and while walking to a waiting ambulance, Damato dropped his cane. When he was bending over to pick up his cane, according to the suit, Worden “violently forced” Damato to the ground.
Damato was knocked unconscious for a period of time and taken to St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center. Several days later, Damato was released from the hospital.
Two months later, Damato was involved in a car accident in the Holy Family Church parking lot and ultimately died as a result of his injuries.
According to the lawsuit, because of the officers’ “indifferent actions,” Damato suffered injuries including a traumatic brain injury that “directly resulted” in Damato’s untimely death.
Olschafskie’s was the last of nearly a dozen lawsuits filed against the town to be settled. The legal actions began with a complaint by a Windsor man in 2014 that Worden had used excessive force when arresting him at the Thompsonville boat launch earlier that year. In dashcam footage of the arrest, Worden can be seen punching the Windsor man, Mark Maher, at least three times while detaining him.
Monday night’s council meeting was the first time settlement figures associated with the nearly dozen lawsuits alleging police brutality and excessive force by former officer Worden were publicly released. In June, the Freedom of Information Commission ruled that Enfield officials were to request the settlement information from the town’s insurance carrier and provide them to the ACLU and Journal Inquirer, which filed complaints to the commission.
Later that month, Bromson appealed the decision saying the documents are exempt because they are maintained by CIRMA.
Last October and November, the ACLU requested settlement information for three police brutality lawsuits and town officials said they did not possess the information since CIRMA was handling the caseload.
On Tuesday, Bromson said the town only kept the settlement figures confidential because CIRMA said if those figures had been made public it would have “adversely affected” any future settlements.