December 19, 2012

A woman who was jailed in 1998 in Wayne County, Michigan went into labor while she was incarcerated. The jail had her transported to a local hospital but she was sent back to jail two hours later. Back in jail, her labor pains intensified, causing other inmates to yell for the guards to assist the woman but the guards failed to promptly respond. When the guards finally responded, the baby’s head had already emerged. At the time the baby was born in jail, she was not breathing and her brain was deprived of oxygen. She suffered permanent and severe brain damage as a result of the deprivation of oxygen to her brain, resulting in her need for constant supervision. The now 14-year-old girl is severely impaired and has lived with a guardian since her birth.

The Medical Malpractice Lawsuit’s Factual Allegations

The medical malpractice lawsuit alleged that on December 2, 1998, at approximately 3:00 a.m., the pregnant inmate went into labor. She was left in her cell until approximately 9:28 p.m. that same day, at which time she was brought by the jail’s staff to a local hospital and evaluated by a physician. While at the hospital, the woman was electronically monitored, given pain medication, and noted to be dilated to two centimeters. At approximately 11:28 p.m., the physician at the hospital ordered that the woman be returned to the jail.

Once the woman was returned to jail, she was locked up and not checked on by the defendants despite the fact that she was in labor. While she was confined to her cell, the woman’s labor pains intensified. She notified a deputy that she was experiencing contractions and needed medical attention as soon as possible. For over two hours, allegedly none of the defendants checked on the woman or obtained medical care for her. After two hours had passed, the deputy brought the woman from her jail cell to the nurses station, but the nurse allegedly did not provide medical care to the woman. She was again returned to her cell.

Back in her cell, the woman asked her cell mate to alert the defendants that she required immediate medical attention, but the cell mate was unable to get the attention of the defendants. At that point, all of the inmates on the cell block started screaming and banging on toilets and cell bars in an effort to alert the defendants but the defendants allegedly failed to respond.

Eventually, the defendants responded to the noise and asked the woman what was going on. She told the defendants that the baby was coming out and that she needed immediate medical attention. The defendants ordered the woman to stand up and get dressed, but she told them that she could not move because the baby was coming out. The defendants placed the woman in a wheelchair and brought her to the nurses station at approximately 1:30 a.m. on December 3, 1998.

At the nurses station, the nurse contacted EMS, but allegedly did not perform a nursing assessment, make a diagnosis, or render any care to the woman. EMS arrived at approximately 1:57 a.m. When EMS arrived, they realized that the baby was “crowning” or had already crowned. Within minutes, the baby was delivered at the jail. The baby was not breathing and EMS did not have the equipment to properly resuscitate the baby, so EMS transported both the woman and the baby to the local hospital.

Upon arrival in the hospital’s Emergency Room, the baby was found to be cyanotic, with no respirations or heart rate. She was immediately intubated and CPR was initiated.

The plaintiff’s medical malpractice lawsuit alleges that as a result of the distress suffered and lack of medical care provided during the labor and delivery process, the baby suffered numerous injuries, including severe mental retardation and severe cerebral palsy. The plaintiff’s guardian filed the medical malpractice lawsuit based on 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the three individual defendants were deliberately indifferent to the woman and her baby’s serious medical needs in violation of their rights and privileges under the United States Constitution and various other federal statutes.

The defense argued that there was no responsibility under the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which states, in part: No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

The defendants sought to have the medical malpractice claims against them dismissed, arguing that the “unborn” are neither “citizens” nor “other persons” within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment, and thus have no rights under that Amendment. They also argued that the complaint should be dismissed because the statute of limitations had run on the plaintiff’s claims. Lastly, they argued that the plaintiff’s complaint should be dismissed because qualified immunity protects the defendants from suit.

The federal court in which the medical malpractice case was pending denied all of the defendants’  arguments that the case against them should be dismissed.


Wayne County, Michigan recently agreed to pay $8 million to settle the medical malpractice lawsuit. The settlement proposal was scheduled to go before a federal judge on December 12, 2012, for approval.


If you or a loved one suffered harms as a result of possible medical malpractice while incarcerated, you or your loved one may be entitled to compensation for the resulting injuries and losses. You should promptly contact a local medical malpractice attorney (prisoner medical malpractice attorney) who may be able to assist you or your loved one with a claim.

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