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The largest verdict in the state of Indiana’s history, $56.5 million, was awarded on May 9 on a civil rights claim involving a death in a jail’s drunk tank. In the early morning of Oct. 5, 1997, 30-year-old Christopher Moreland was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. He was taken to the St. Joseph County Jail in South Bend, Ind., where he was incarcerated in the drunk tank. A confrontation between Moreland and another prisoner prompted deputy Paul Moffa to enter the cell where, a surveillance video shows, Moffa sprayed Moreland in the face with a powerful pepper spray called OC 10. Moffa then continued to assault Moreland, choking him and slamming his head against a concrete bench. Deputies Erich Dieter and Michael Sawdon then took Moreland to the fourth floor of the jail to shower off the OC 10. However, instead of putting Moreland into a cold shower, the standard procedure, the guards threw him into a hot shower, amplifying the effect of a chemical that was already 10 times as powerful as regular pepper spray. Though there was no video surveillance on the fourth floor, testimony by inmates as well as several prison guards indicated that Dieter and Sawdon then placed Moreland in a restraining chair where they sprayed him again. He allegedly then was removed from the chair and thrown into the shower, causing him to hit his head and suffer a subdural hematoma, a brain injury. After another stint in the restraining chair, the naked and comatose Moreland was returned to the drunk tank, where he was found dead the following morning. After Dieter and Sawdon were acquitted of federal criminal charges in February 2000, Moreland’s family sued, alleging that Dieter, Sawdon, Moffa and the county jail violated Moreland’s civil rights under � 1983 of the Civil Rights Act. The case against the county was dismissed on summary judgment and the jury hung on the charges against Moffa. Martin Kus, counsel for Dieter and Sawdon, said that since neither deputy is indemnified by the county, the chances are slim that the Morelands will collect a substantial amount of the $56.5 million verdict against them. Plaintiffs’ attorneys: Geoffrey Fieger of Fieger, Fieger, Kenney & Johnson in Southfield, Mich.; Sean Drew from Niles, Mich. Defense attorneys: Martin W. Kus of Newby, Lewis, Kaminski & Jones in La Porte, Ind.; James F. Groves of Hardig, Lee & Groves in South Bend, Ind.; Wendell W. Walsh of May, Oberfell & Lorber in South Bend, Ind.

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