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posted: 1/8/2014 5:06 PM

Lake County approves $1.95 million settlement in lawsuit over jail inmate's death

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  • Video: Eugene Gruber settlement

  • Eugene Gruber

      Eugene Gruber

  • Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran

      Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran

  • Undersheriff Raymond J. Rose

      Undersheriff Raymond J. Rose

 
 

The family of a Lake County jail inmate who was paralyzed during a violent confrontation with a guard and later died will receive $1.95 million under a settlement approved Wednesday.

Eugene Gruber, 51, of Grayslake, died in March 2012, about four months after he was injured.

The Lake County Board's financial and administrative committee approved the settlement. The full board doesn't vote on the deal.

Sheriff Mark Curran, whose staff runs the jail, was contrite after the vote.

"I would like to apologize to the family of Eugene Gruber. I'm sad for the loss of his life," Curran told the Daily Herald in an exclusive interview. "I would also like to apologize to the citizens of Lake County."

Gruber's sister, Eileen Siwula, filed the federal lawsuit three weeks after he died at a rehabilitation hospital in Chicago. Defendants included the county, Curran and individual jail workers.

Employees with the firm Corrective Care Solutions, who handled Gruber's injuries at the jail, were targeted, too. Siwula's lawsuit against them continues.

Siwula's attorney couldn't be reached for comment.

Gruber was arrested Oct. 31, 2011, by a sheriff's deputy and charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing. He was combative and uncooperative at the jail, authorities said.

Gruber was beaten while being processed at the jail, resulting in neck injuries that left him paralyzed, the lawsuit claimed.

According to the lawsuit, Gruber exhibited signs of the injury while at the jail but he was not taken to a hospital until the next day, where he was diagnosed with the spinal injury.

No criminal charges have been filed in the case.

The sheriff's employees involved in the confrontation still work at the jail, Undersheriff Raymond J. Rose said Wednesday.

Settling the lawsuit allows investigators to finally interview them, Rose said.

"We all need to get to the bottom of it," he said.

Gruber was the second jail inmate who died in 2012. That January, Vernon Hills resident Lyvita Gomes died after a hunger strike at the jail. She was dehydrated and malnourished, an autopsy showed.

A federal lawsuit was filed after her death, too. Relatives alleged jail administrators and the sheriff ignored her mental illness and denied her appropriate medical care.

That case hasn't been resolved.

An independent investigation into the two deaths was ordered last year. A final report could be issued within two months, Rose said.

Preliminary information from the investigator has not been released to the media or the public.

Curran and Rose insisted the sheriff's office has taken several steps to prevent other inmate deaths. They include policy reviews, inspections, training on the use of force and the purchase of personal cameras for officers and prisoner restraint chairs.

The finance committee's vote came after a lengthy closed-door discussion of the Gruber case. Curran, Rose and other top sheriff's personnel participated in the discussion.

The county is responsible for about $1.8 million of the payout. The rest will be covered by the county's insurer.

Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor called the matter tragic. He said the settlement "is in the best interests of Lake County and the taxpayers."

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