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Chicago hints it may settle lawsuit by woman released by police in dangerous neighborhood

By David Heinzmann, Chicago Tribune –

CHICAGO — Lawyers for the City of Chicago have asked a federal judge to explore the possibility of settling a 6-year-old lawsuit brought by a California couple who claim their mentally ill daughter was gravely injured after police released her in a high-crime neighborhood.

It is the first public sign that the city is considering settling the lawsuit, which claims police ignored obvious warning signs about Christina Eilman’s bipolar condition and frantic calls from her parents after arresting her for erratic behavior at Midway Airport in 2006. They took Eilman, then 21, to a South Side holding cell miles from the airport and later released her into the unfamiliar neighborhood, where she was kidnapped and sexually assaulted, and then fell from a seventh-story window in a public housing high-rise.

The family is seeking as much as $100 million in damages for injuries to Eilman, who her doctors say is permanently disabled and will need around-the-clock care for the rest of her life. The 2006 lawsuit is set for a Jan. 14 trial after years of legal maneuvering that led Eilman’s lawyers to accuse the city of intentionally delaying the case.

U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall has also expressed frustration with the city over the slow pace of the case and has sympathized with claims that the delays were harming the medical treatment for Eilman, who was uninsured at the time of the incident and requires many therapies.

The city filed a motion last week seeking appointment of a federal magistrate judge to mediate settlement talks, and is expected to discuss it during a Monday status hearing before Kendall.

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