Lawsuit filed over death of Philadelphia transsexual
September 17 2003 12:00 AM ET
A lawsuit filed Tuesday in a district court alleges that Philadelphia police and paramedics were negligent in their treatment of Nizah Morris, a popular transgendered entertainer who was killed on December 21. The suit--filed by the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights and the law firm of Kairys, Rudovsky, Epstein, and Messing--also names the agents and employees at the Key West Bar and Grille in downtown Philadelphia, where Morris had been drinking the night of her death.
Nizah Morris attended a holiday party at the bar, where she became too intoxicated to make her own way home. Concerned citizens called 911 to obtain medical assistance for her. According to the suit, an ambulance was en route when Philadelphia police officer Elizabeth Skala arrived on the scene. Skala called off the ambulance and drove Morris to the vicinity of the 1500 block of Walnut Street, where minutes later Morris was fatally wounded by a blow to the head. Morris was eventually transported to Jefferson Hospital, where she died on Christmas Eve.
"This lawsuit raises compelling issues about procedures used by city police and paramedics that may violate citizens' constitutional rights," said Paul Messing, lead counsel in the case. "The complaint alleges conduct by city employees that increased the danger to Ms. Morris and ultimately led to her death. Separately, the bar placed Ms. Morris in danger by continuing to serve her once she was intoxicated. As a result of the conduct of all defendants and their willful disregard of Ms. Morris's safety, the complaint alleges that all of the defendants are responsible for her death."
Lee Carpenter, staff attorney at the Center for Lesbian and Gay Civil Rights and cocounsel in the case, said, "Although the damages suffered by Ms. Morris's family are staggering, this case is not about money. It is about using every means at our disposal to finally obtain answers to questions about how and why Nizah died." Added Stacey Sobel, the center's executive director: "We hope that this suit results in accountability for those who are responsible for Nizah's death and a small measure of justice for the transgender community. Our community is tired of seeing transgendered people treated as second-class citizens."