While being bussed to her special education school, a disabled five-year-old girl was strangled by a safety harness that the staff had put on her backwards. We advised the family that, in state court, the recovery for the death of a child was limited and some of the defendants were immune from being sued. So, we filed a civil rights action in federal court in addition to the state court proceeding. The federal court recognized the parents’ constitutional right to seek damages for the loss of the companionship of their child, which would not have been allowed in state court. The Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer team secured a precedent setting settlement. This case received national attention in the student transportation industry, prompting greater concerns for student safety.
A troubled veteran under psychiatric care at a Veterans Administration treatment facility was released, and tragedy followed: he murdered two of his children and two of their friends, followed by the veteran’s suicide. The children’s mothers asked Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer to hold the government accountable for their losses. Regina Foley developed the evidence to establish that the Veterans Administration was grossly negligent, the standard of proof required by the Mental Health Procedures Act. The case was tried to a federal judge, sitting non-jury, who concluded that the VA was grossly negligent and awarded damages that honored the lives lost.
Despondent about being in jail on minor charges, a woman verbalized her thinking about killing herself to a police officer. She was placed in a cell that had video surveillance so that the jail staff could respond to her if she followed through on her suicidal ideation. The police officer charged with monitoring the surveillance camera failed to watch the video feed and the woman committed suicide. Her family turned to Harold Goodman to investigate the circumstances of her death and to hold the jail staff accountable. Harold and his team established that the suicide occurred within full view of the cameras and the suicide was entirely preventable. The Police Departments settled the family’s claim on a confidential basis.
Lillie Belle Allen, an innocent black woman on a family trip to York, Pennsylvania, was murdered on July 21, 1969 as a result of local police officers inciting and arming a racist mob “to kill as many n****** as you can.” For more than thirty years, the City of York’s Police Department covered up its officers’ involvement, as well as the identity of the shooters who took her life. Based on a death bed confession of one of the killers, the District Attorney reopened the case and two men were convicted of Lillie Belle’s murder in 2002. In January 2003 – thirty three years after her death – Harold Goodman and his team filed a civil rights claim against York on behalf of Lillie Belle Allen’s family. After overcoming the legal challenges faced in a many decades old case, Attorney Goodman pressed forward to trial. In 2005, the City of York settled the case, issued an apology to the Allen family, and commemorated Ms. Allen’s life in several City facilities.
Mike was an undercover police officer doing dangerous anti-drug work, who tragically lost his life when a fellow officer carelessly opened fire. Under Pennsylvania law, the officer’s family had no remedy, so Raynes lawyers looked to federal law, arguing that the officer who wrongly opened fire violated the slain officer’s civil rights. This was a novel legal theory within this federal circuit. By careful investigation, with the assistance of leading experts on proper police procedure, the team negotiated a settlement which included a substantial award coupled with preservation of the workers’ compensation benefits for the family.