The father of a man who drowned in Back Cove in April 2020 filed an amended complaint in U.S. District Court on Tuesday naming the city of Portland and a Portland firefighter as defendants.

The wrongful death lawsuit filed by John Cohen, whose son Eric Cohen of Portland drowned nearly three years ago, names the city and firefighter Ronald Giroux Jr. as defendants, according to court documents filed in Portland.

Verne E. Paradie Jr., the Lewiston attorney who filed the complaint on behalf of John Cohen of Highlands Ranch, Colorado, said he named Giroux in the civil action as the result of discovery, the process in which parties in a court case exchange information about witnesses and evidence to be presented at trial.

Tuesday’s complaint is the sixth amended complaint filed in court since Paradie named the city, two of its police officers, and a third party referred to as John Doe, as defendants in a suit filed on Sept. 15, 2021. Since then, the police officers have been dropped from the suit, Paradie said in an interview Tuesday night.

The attorneys representing the city did not respond to requests for an interview Tuesday, and city spokesperson Jessica Grondin said the city does not comment on pending litigation.

In an order issued Feb. 1, U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Torresen granted Paradie’s request to identify John Doe as Giroux and helped clarify the city’s position. Torresen said the city of Portland opposed the request to add the Portland firefighter as a defendant in the suit because Paradie “has not shown good cause.”


In her order, the judge said that the defendant has long been on notice that Giroux was possibly the person previously named as “John Doe,” so adding Giroux back in should neither prejudice nor unfairly surprise the defendant.

Eric Cohen, 25, drowned in the frigid waters of Portland’s Back Cove on April 12, 2020, after he ran into the water naked around 1:23 p.m. The lawsuit says that Cohen “was experiencing some form of psychosis” at the time. The air temperature that day was about 43 degrees, and the water temperature was 41.

Portland police said that Cohen, who had a history of mental health issues, got into an argument with his girlfriend that day while the couple were walking down Marginal Way near the Miss Portland Diner. Police say Cohen unexpectedly stripped off his clothes. His girlfriend began to pick up his clothing and attempted to calm him down, but Cohen beat her unconscious and assaulted a bystander who intervened.

After the assault was interrupted, Cohen fled behind the diner and across Interstate 295, and then jumped into Back Cove. Firefighters pulled him from the water 24 minutes later and took him to Maine Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

The suit alleges that first responders could have acted faster and done more to save Cohen’s life while they waited for the city’s fireboat to arrive.

The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages to be determined at trial, as well as attorneys’ fees and costs, among other relief.

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