City of Venice, Sarasota County Settle Wrongful Death Suit

Venice City Council this week approved one of the largest settlements in city history in a lawsuit filed by a man whose wife killed herself while in jail in 2003. The civil rights and wrongful death suit, filed in the United States Federal District Court in Tampa, Florida, alleged that poor morale in the Venice Police Department and failure to follow procedures lead to the death of Elizabeth Stebbins in the early morning hours of December 7, 2003. "The one thing that we found in our research was that there were issues of failure to follow policy; specifically, that required (officers) to pass along pertinent information about detainees when they are turned over to another department," Attorney Marc Falco said in an interview Friday.

Falco charged that Venice Police showed an "indifference" to Stebbins' condition.

"When you have low morale, you can have problems with not following policy and officers punching the clock and just trying to get home," Falco said.

The case never got to trial with Stebbins' lawyers, led by Marc Falco, settling with attorneys for the city and county in March of 2006. It is the largest judgment that Venice has paid out in a wrongful death suit in at least two decades, officials said.