Attorney Thomas Murphy ()
In a wrongful death lawsuit filed against the Town of Plainville and two of its police officers, a Connecticut jury has awarded $10 million to the family of a woman killed by her ex-boyfriend on Valentine’s Day 2009.
The family alleged that even though there was a restraining order barring the ex-boyfriend from coming near the woman, he continued to harass the woman and police did nothing to enforce the order.
Tiana Notice was 25 years old in 2009 when she was stabbed to death outside her apartment. The family’s lawyers said she was stabbed 20 times by James Carter II of Bloomfield. Carter is serving a 60-year prison sentence.
On the day of the killing, Notice claimed to have received a disturbing email from the ex-boyfriend. Carter also told Notice not to report the email to police.
But a Plainville police officer, Mark Connoy, later told Carter that Notice had, in fact, told the authorities about the email. Furious, Carter later that night grabbed a knife and drove to Notice’s apartment complex. Once there, in an attempt get into Notice’s home, he called locksmiths to say he was locked out of his apartment. Though that effort was unsuccessful, he waited for the woman to return home and attacked her.
Notice had been so worried about her ex-boyfriend that she had her father set up a surveillance camera outside her apartment. The jury watched and listened to recordings from the camera that showed Notice running away from the suspect. The stabbing was out of the camera’s view, but Notice’s screams could be heard.
The email messages that Notice were receiving were sent from an e-mail account bearing the name of a woman who Carter claimed was his new girlfriend. Police eventually concluded that the email account and girlfriend were fabricated by Carter to circumvent the order preventing him from contacting Notice.
Connoy, and his boss, Sgt. Richard Marques, were two of the named defendants who the jury ultimately found negligent. While Connoy tipped Carter off that police had received the email, Marques admitted at trial that he never even read the message.
The jury ultimately sided with the family of Notice, whose estate is administered by her father, Alvin, and awarded $10,000,885.
“We believe the lawsuit here was vindicated by the careful work of the jury in assessing the facts and the law,” said one of the plaintiff’s lawyers, Thomas Murphy, of Cowdery, Ecker & Murphy in Hartford. “We view this as justice for Tiana who didn’t get it while she was alive.”
The trial took four weeks and the jury deliberated for just over two days. The verdict came in late Monday.
The jury placed some of the blame to the Waterbury Police Department. Notice had contacted authorities there the day before the murder because Carter kept calling and harassing her at her workplace in Waterbury.
Murphy, along with attorney James Healy, of the same firm, settled the plaintiff’s claim against the Waterbury Police Department prior to trial for an undisclosed amount. The jury apportioned 40 percent of the blame to the Waterbury department, but it will not have to pay any additional money as a result of the civil trial verdict.
Scott Karsten, of Karsten & Tallberg in West Hartford, was one of the lawyers defending the Plainville police officers. He said he will file post-trial motions. If unsuccessful, he intends to appeal on grounds that the Plainville officers, as public employees carrying out their duties, are immune from lawsuit.
“Our view is that it’s a case that never should’ve gone to a jury to begin with,” said Karsten. “There was no apparent risk of physical injury to the victim at any time prior to the murder. We think this is a good example of why the doctrine of governmental immunity exists.”