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Aldermen recommend $5M settlement for man incorrectly pronounced dead

The family of a Chicago man wrongly pronounced dead by paramedics is a step closer to receiving a $5 million settlement from the city.

Members of the City Council’s Committee on Finance voted Monday to recommend the settlement for the family of Whitfield Marshall Jr. Marshall died in February 2019 shortly after he was hospitalized following paramedics’ incorrectly determining he was already dead.

Marshall’s family arrived at his Near West Side home after the medics had pronounced him, only to hear him grumble, city attorney Margaret Casey told aldermen.

“The family arrived four hours later to make preparations for Mr. Marshall’s body, heard Mr. Marshall moaning and called 911,” she said.

The father of three was rushed to the hospital, but never regained consciousness. Days later, his family elected to take him off life support. His family alleges the delayed treatment caused Marshall to suffer brain damage, Casey said.

The two Chicago Fire Department employees who wrongly determined he was dead are no longer employed by the department, she added.

“Paramedics in this matter spent less than 15 seconds assessing Mr. Marshall,” Casey said.

Casey told the committee the city could be forced to pay even more than the costly settlement if the case goes to court. In a voice vote, only Ald. Bill Conway, 34th, voted against recommending the settlement. The West Loop alderman shared doubts a court would award Marshall’s family $5 million because of the man’s preexisting health issues.

But in the brief hearing, Ald. Daniel La Spata threw his support behind the deal, calling Marshall’s death “truly heartbreaking and sad,” he said.

“This settlement is more than justified,” he said

Aldermen recommended three additional settlements Monday expected to cost the city another $2.5 million.

For Maya Kirk, who suffered a fractured thigh bone and needed two surgeries after a lamp pole fell on her as she walked near the Thompson Center on LaSalle Street in November 2019, the committee passed a $2 million settlement recommendation.

Kirk was “struck in the head by an ornamental lamp pole and slammed to the ground,” Casey told the committee. She was left with $255,000 in medical bills, a half-moon scar on her face and another long scar on her leg, as well as a permanent limp and intermittent pain.

A survey paid for by the city and completed by a contractor had previously determined the pole had routine rusting, according to Casey — a revelation with which Ald. Jeannette Taylor, 20th, took issue.

When Taylor pressed, Casey was unable to answer whether the contractor was on a do-not-hire list.

“We could have took that $2 million and fixed a bunch of poles,” Taylor said. “What are the repercussions for that contractor?”

Taylor and Conway voted against the settlement.

Aldermen agreed without pushback to recommend a $375,000 settlement for Jeffrey Haag, who Casey said needed neck surgery after a police officer’s car rolled through a stop sign and hit him at South Stony Island Avenue and East 85th Street in September 2019.

Officers were checking the license plate of another car when the crash occurred, she said.

In another approved settlement, the committee recommended a $300,000 settlement for Anthony Brown, who city attorney Caroline Fronczak said was shot in the back while running from police in March 2018.

Officers at the time said Brown was manipulating something in his pocket, though the shooting was not recorded by body cameras. Police later found a firearm in his possession, but the Civilian Office of Police Accountability determined the shooting violated department policy, Fronczak said.

jsheridan@chicagotribune.com