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Mother Settles Suit Over Teen's In-Custody Stun Gun Death

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By David Goguen on May 05, 2009 1:45 PM

The mother of an Illinois teenager who died after police officers shocked him with a Taser gun while he was in custody has reached a wrongful death settlement with the city where the incident took place.

Rita Cummings's son Roger Holyfield was 17 when he had a confrontation with police in Jerseyville, Illinois. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Holyfield "was carrying a Bible and a cordless phone" and "shouting for Jesus when police tried to subdue him" by shocking him twice with a Taser gun after placing him in handcuffs. Holyfield, who was mentally ill, died the next day at a hospital in St. Louis.

The dollar amount of the settlement of Cummings's wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Jerseyville was not disclosed.

Results of an investigation into the police officers' action and their role in causing Holyfield's death "exonerate the policemen who handled Holyfield, and [show] that the two officers followed established policy and procedures regarding the use of force and the stun gun," according to the Chicago Tribune

What is Wrongful Death? When someone dies as a result of negligence (or even after a crime), surviving family members can file a civil lawsuit for wrongful death, as personal representatives of the person who died. A wrongful death action typically seeks damages for things like the loss of the decedent's support, lost prospects for inheritance, and medical and funeral expenses.

Other types of damages for an accident or injury victim's death -- such as pain and suffering --are typically included in a separate negligence claim that is usually filed alongside a wrongful death cause of action. (Learn more about Wrongful Death claims.)