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Federal jury awards California family $85 million in wrongful death lawsuit

The jury’s verdict came in a negligence and wrongful death lawsuit filed by Lucky Phounsy’s family against the county and sheriffs.

“What we’ve asked the jury to do is return a verdict that reflects the truth about his death and reflects justice for what was taken from this family,” family attorney Tim Scott said, according to CNN affiliate KGTV. “We believe the jury’s verdict did both truth and justice.”

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department plans to meet with its legal representatives to “further evaluate the verdict,” according to a statement.

“As always, our ultimate goal is to provide exceptional law enforcement services in San Diego County,” the statement read.

On April 13, 2015, Phunsy, 32, “began to experience symptoms of a mental health crisis” and called 911 “to report that unknown assailants were attempting to harm her,” according to the complaint filed with the name of Phunsy’s two children, his wife, and mother.

The sheriff’s deputies who responded to the call “were unnecessarily confrontational, aggressive and profane,” according to the lawsuit.

After deputies tried to handcuff him, “Lucky got scared and got confused” before an altercation with one of the deputies, according to the lawsuit.

Deputies, EMTs and paramedics Tasered Phunsy and tied him up, and on the way to the hospital paramedics put a sock over his face, the lawsuit alleges.

According to a summary of the incident in court papers, the two deputies who responded called for backup units “as they were assaulted and injured by Phounsy”. Both deputies were injured in the altercation, one of them seriously, according to the summary.

Phunsy was treated at a local hospital and died a few days later, according to the complaint.

The federal jury found that the deputies used excessive force against Phunsy, were improperly trained, violated Phunsy’s civil rights and were negligent in their duties – leading to his wrongful death, according to court records.

Phunsy’s family was awarded $5 million for the pain and suffering he suffered – $2 million for the suffering he endured before he was placed in an ambulance and $3 million for the suffering he endured before his death — plus $80 million for the loss of his love, companionship and more, according to court records.

CNN’s Theresa Waldrop contributed to this report.


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