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Fourteen Year Battle Continues for Woman Who Gave Birth in Jail Cell

Our Illinois birth injury lawyers most often deal with cases that are related to Illinois medical malpractice, where a mother and child do not receive adequate care during delivery. However, in some limited circumstances a birth injury lawsuit may be filed based on theories outside of the medical malpractice context. For example, the Boston Herald this week discussed a drawn out legal fight by a woman who claims that she was forced to give birth to her child while lying on the floor of a jail cell. The case therefore is not based entirely on inadequate care by medical professional but essentially on no care being provided as a violation of her civil rights.

The case is a drawn-out one, as the plaintiff in the suit gave birth to her child more than fourteen years ago. It was only later that she filed a federal lawsuit claiming that those around her refused to believe her protestations that she was pregnant. Instead, jail guards dismissed her claims as ramblings by a mentally ill woman.

The woman ended up in the jail cell in 1997 because she was arrested for sleeping on a bench at a Metro bus stop. The woman admittedly had mental problems at the time of the incident. The lawsuit that was filed claims that health officials at the jail noted that she was in the advanced stages of pregnancy but they did nothing to account for her condition. Instead she was apparently put in a jail cell and left there for six days. It wasn’t until the woman actually gave birth to the child on the floor of the cell that a guard heard the newborn’s cries and called for help.

In responding to the allegations, the state’s jail-practices expert noted that the guards likely acted in the way that they did because they did not believe the woman’s claims because of her mental illness. However, the woman’s plaintiff attorney alleges that anyone could have known that the woman was pregnant simply by looking at her.

The lawsuit does include some allegations of medical malpractice-on the part of the jail health officials-but it also includes claims of basic negligence and civil rights violations for the overall way that the woman was treated. In addition, the suit makes claims that the tragic situation in this case was part of a pattern of behavior at the facility which has found that life-threatening deficiencies in medical caregiving to jail inmates was a routine occurrence. It is alleged that routine medical screenings were simply discontinued if the inmate was uncooperative, which led to the troubling situation here. The victim was uncooperative as a result of her mental illness which produces delusions and makes it difficult for her to care for herself.

The victim’s mental condition is sporadic, as she has moments of clarity before falling back into debilitating delusions. On another occasion, while in a 23-hour lockdown in the jail’s psychiatric ward, the victim allegedly told a nurse that she was pregnant and worried about her baby. However, the nurse explained that she thought the woman was lying “in order to get an extra sandwich.”

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Trial Begins in Lawsuit Where Inmate Gave Birth Alone in Cell