DALTON — Nearly a year ago, the mother of a young Dalton woman sued the town and members of its police force for more than $3.7 million, claiming they should have done more to protect her daughter on the night in late 2019 when she was found to have died by suicide.
The U.S. District Court magistrate overseeing the case says the man Sherilyn Hayes lived with will remain a defendant. And Magistrate Judge Katherine A. Robertson has approved a timetable that will bring the case to trial in mid-2023.
In a recent order, Robertson rejected a request from an attorney for Kyle Nutting, Sherilyn Hayes’ boyfriend at the time of her death, that she reconsider her decision not to remove Nutting from the case.
Robertson also approved deadlines that will require lawyers for all the parties, including the town of Dalton, to finish the discovery process of the trial, in which the legal adversaries gather facts from one another, by Dec. 30. In the five months that follow the deadline, through May 2023, they must find and depose all the experts that could be called to testify.
Just about a year from now, by May 1, the lawyers must file final motions — at which point Hayes’ mother, Patricia, will see her case go to trial.
She filed suit May 7, 2021, 18 months after her daughter’s death, claiming that instead of going to the scene of a reported domestic dispute, a Dalton cop tried to protect the reputation of a fellow officer, Nutting, and then engaged in a cover-up.
Hayes’ lawsuit says that if Dalton police had gone to her daughter’s apartment — as a concerned neighbor urged, and as police policy dictates in domestic incidents — they might have saved Sherilyn Hayes’ life.
The original suit named the towns of Dalton and Peru, four people who worked at the time for the Dalton Police Department and Nutting, then an officer with the town of Peru.
Nutting lived with Sherilyn Hayes and was identified in an emergency call on the night of Nov. 23, 2019, as having been involved in an argument with Hayes. The suit named John M. Marley and Police Chief Jeffrey Coe, both of whom left the force in the wake of the incident.
Marley never went to Hayes’ home to check on her well-being, according to an outside investigator hired by the town of Dalton.
The suit also named Frank M. Speth III, a dispatcher, and officer Dylan Bencivenga.
In February, an attorney for Nutting asked Robertson to reconsider her decision to keep Nutting in the case in connection with the lawsuit’s claim that his conduct, on the night Sherilyn Hayes died, constituted “gross negligence” and that the lawsuit’s claim of wrongful death should go forward against him.
Nutting’s lawyer, Keith A. Minoff, argued that evidence against his client was insufficient. Robertson denied the motion for reconsideration.
Timothy M. Burke, the lawyer for Patricia Hayes, opposed the motion for reconsideration, arguing that Nutting was aware of the risk that Hayes might harm herself.
Burke wrote that his client has “sufficiently pled that Nutting’s negligence was the cause, or a significant contributing factor to the decedent’s uncontrollable suicidal impulse; and that his intentional conduct caused severe emotional distress that was a substantial factor in bringing about the suicide. … It is premature to deny Plaintiff the ability to conduct discovery that would allow her to shed light on Defendant Nutting’s conduct and its cause and effect on Ms. Hayes loss of life.”
The town of Dalton, Speth and Bencivenga are represented by David Lawless and Nancy Frankel Pelletier of Robinson Donovan in Springfield.
Marley is represented by Alexandra Gill of Louison, Costello, Condron & Pfaff of Boston.