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$1 million settlement in Madison man’s death from exposure

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Vance Perry

MADISON (WKOW) -- An attorney for a man who died from exposure to the cold in a Madison parking garage after a hospital discharge says a federal lawsuit over the death has been resolved with a $1 million dollar settlement.

Court records show the case involving the December 2018 death of Vance Perry, 57, of Madison was dismissed March 15. Attorney for Perry's children, Terry Polich, says the dismissal took place as the result of the children and the U.S. Attorney's Office for Wisconsin's Western District agreeing to the $1 million resolution.

Polich says Perry's five adult children were relieved the case was resolved without a court battle. The children live in Georgia.

Polich says Perry was discharged from Madison's Veterans Administration Hospital hours before surveillance video captured his movements at the State Street Capitol Parking Ramp on North Carroll Street.

Madison Police say Perry was found wearing only a light jacket, a ball cap and no gloves. Polich says the overnight temperature was six below zero.

A Madison Police incident report stated Perry "walked away" from a hospital. Several days after Perry's body was found, a spokesperson for the VA also told 27 News Perry walked away.

The lawsuit maintained the VA knew Perry's mental health condition put him at risk of wandering and that staff at the hospital knew he could not return to his residence on his own.

"The family had communicated with the VA about those memory problems before this entire circumstance took place," Polich says.

Polich says a cab was ordered in connection with Perry's discharge and was at the hospital, but Perry never got in the cab. "Somebody should have waited with Mr. Perry at the area where the cabs come to the hospital," Polich says.

Polich says Perry's wife had suffered a stroke and Perry was staying with friends. He says those friends contacted the hospital a couple of hours after Perry was discharged to inform them he had not arrived home.

"They didn't issue a Silver Alert after that, they didn't call the police," Polich says of hospital personnel.

Polich told The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel even though the federal court records reflect no assignment of blame in the lawsuit settlement, the amount of money is telling.

"This was an obvious error," Polich says. "The government doesn't settle these unless it's obvious."

Federal court records state Perry served in the U.S. Army from 1978 to 1984 when he was honorably discharged.

"It was such a tragedy," Polich says of Perry's demise, noting the video showed Perry confused in the parking ramp and looking in a bag.

"The U.S. Attorney’s Office has no statement on this matter," says spokesperson Myra Longfield.

Polich says he hopes attention to the circumstances surrounding Perry's death influences funding for the VA Hospital to ensure additional staff for patient care and adherence to hospital protocols.

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Tony Galli

Reporter, WKOW

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