$1.8 million settlement for man who died in police vehicle

City seeks to settle death in squadrol 

Man’s survivors to get $1.8 million 

By: Gary Washburn            Chicago Tribune 

December 3, 2002 

The city would pay $1.8 million to the survivors of an inebriated man who suffocated in a police squadrol after it took two hours to get him to a hospital, under a legal settlement advanced Monday by a City Council committee. 

The proposed settlement with the family of Juan Vega comes at a time when the Daley administration, under budget pressure, is seeking to rein in liability expenses. 

Lawyers for Vega’s family contended that the two officers stopped for a meal before finally getting him to Cook County Hospital for alcohol detoxification on Nov. 3, 2000, officials said. 

When they opened the squadrol, they found that his head was wedged between a vehicle stair and the door of the rear compartment where he had been riding. 

The officers denied stopping to eat, contending that a failed attempt to find Vega’s home, a traffic enforcement stop and congestion delayed their arrival at the hospital from 3535 W. Fullerton Ave., where Vega – a native of Puerto Rico who spoke little or no English – was picked up after a 911 call. 

Vega’s blood alcohol was at three times the legal threshold of intoxication at the time of his death. But lawyers who filed suit contended that his condition did not excuse the officers for failing to provide proper care. 

“You can’t treat somebody like an animal and throw him into a van,” said Blake Horwitz, who represented the family along with attorney Elliot RIchardson. “The incredible carelessness and disregard for his safety is really what brought the large settlement.” 

The two officers, Edward Ranzonni and David DiSanti, were suspended for 30 days each for rules violations, said Jennifer Hoyle, a spokeswoman for the city’s Law Department.  

Regardless of whether the two stopped at a restaurant, “the plaintiffs could have made a credible argument [in court] that they should have checked with him to make sure he was all right,” Hoyle said, explaining the decision to seek a settlement.