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Unregulated restraining device may cause wrongful death

New York residents would be hard-pressed to avoid recent news stories regarding people that have suffered injury or death while in direct contact with law enforcement officials. The topic can be controversial, and in many states, people are taking legal action on behalf of victims. Recent cases nationwide may provide evidence that suggests that a spit mask, a type of hood used to restrain a person, may be the cause of wrongful death in some situations. 

In March 2020, New York police officers used a spit mask after being called to the scene where it had been reported that a man was behaving erratically. It was later determined that the man had a history of mental illness. There is no clear situational or procedural protocol in place for the use of these masks. According to reports, the man vomited inside the mask and died a few days later. 

The death was caused by asphyxiation, and ruled a homicide in criminal court. Civil cases in other states have been filed on behalf of people who suffered similar injury or loss of life after being in a spit mask. The victim's family claims that immediately following the incident, police told them that the man died of a drug overdose, and they only learned the true cause of death after the coroner's report became available. 

If another party is deemed responsible for loss of life, representatives for the victim may want to consider filing a wrongful death suit in a civil court. An attorney can help a client navigate the legal process to work towards a verdict or settlement that can result in compensation to the victim's estate. Families can use monetary awards to cover final expenses, outstanding medical bills and the cost of mental health care that has become necessary as a result of trauma. 

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