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$1,000,000 Settlement in Heroin Addict’s Death at Chicago, Illinois, Jail

$1,000,000 Settlement in Heroin Addict's Death at Chicago, Illinois, Jail

On April 18, 2007, Cook County, Illinois, and the Cook County Jail agreed to pay a combined $1,000,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging wrongful death of a female heroin addict at the jail.

Marie O'Donnel-Smith was arrested for shoplifting on August 21, 2002, and placed in Chicago's Cook County Jail. The next day O'Donnel-Smith, a heroin user, began experiencing withdrawal symptoms. She asked jailers to call for medical assistance, but it was between two and three hours before jail nurses Wanda Wilson and Cecelia Torres arrived. By the time they did show up, O'Donnel-Smith had collapsed on the floor and couldn't get up. The nurses told her that if she wanted medical assistance she'd have to crawl to the infirmary.

The nurses ultimately gave O'Donnel-Smith a "cocktail" for her withdrawal symptoms. She was then placed back in her cell where jailers found her dead the next morning.

Following O'Donnel-Smith's death a suit was filed on behalf of her estate. It alleged that the jail and jailers were negligent in failing to secure prompt medical attention for her and that the delay, coupled with the failure of the nurses to properly treat her once they arrived, proximately caused her death.

Rather than proceed to trial the parties agreed to settle for $1,000,000. The county agreed to pay $950,000 and the sheriff's department $50,000.

O'Donnel-Smith's estate was represented by attorney Robert J. Napleton of the Chicago law firm Motherway & Napleton. Experts for the estate included Robert B. Greifinger, M.D. (jail medicine) of Dobbs Ferry, New York; Madeline LaMarre, M.N., A.P.R.N., B.C. (nursing) of Atlanta, Georgia; and Grover McGregor Hutchins, M.D. (cardiac pathology) of Baltimore, Maryland. See: Reed v. County of Cook, Cook County Circuit Court, Case No. 03L010075.

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Related legal case

Reed v. County of Cook