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$8 Million Settlement by Michigan Jail over Baby's Injuries

An $8 million settlement was reached in a lawsuit claiming guards and officials at Michigan’s Wayne County Jail (WCJ) failed to treat a female prisoner in active labor, resulting in serious injury to the infant.

When Chantrienes Barker was booked into WCJ, she was pregnant. On December 2, 1998, she alerted a guard at 3:00 AM that she was having labor pains. The guard alerted the nurses’ station, but he was told Barker was to remain in her cell until her pre-scheduled doctor’s appointment, which was more than seven hours away. The guard did nothing more.

At around 8:30 PM that day, Barker informed another guard she was having labor pains; once again, she was ordered to await her doctor’s appointment. Finally, Barker was taken to a hospital at 9:10 PM. She was examined by a doctor, electronically monitored, given pain medication, and noted to be dilated to 2 cm. The doctor ordered Baker to WCJ at 11:28 PM.

Without any medical attention, Barker was returned to her cell. For the next two hours, no guard or medical staff made rounds or checked on Barker. The prisoners in Barker’s cell block began screaming and banging on toilets and cell bars. Finally, Barker, who was in labor, was checked on. She advised guards and medical staff the baby was coming out.

Nonetheless, she was ordered to stand up, quiet down, and get dressed. Despite her pleas she could not move because the baby was coming out, she was physically placed into a wheelchair and taken to the nurses’ station. Once there, a nurse called EMS, but she failed to make a diagnosis or render Barker care despite that fact that she was obviously in labor.

As soon as EMS arrived, they realized the baby was crowning, or had already crowned. Within minutes, the baby was delivered at WCJ. The infant, C.B., was not breathing, however, C.B. was eventually resuscitated, but she suffered injuries, including severe mental retardation and severe cerebral palsy.

On December 18, 2012, a Michigan federal district court approved a settlement that provides relief against Wayne County for a Monell violation. The settlement provides for cash and annuity payments of $3 million to be paid in December 2012, $2.5 million in October 2013 and 2014. Of the $8 million settlement, attorney fees of $2.45 million and costs of $650,000 were given to the Detroit law firm Fieger, Fieger, Kenney, Giroux, and Danzig and the Chicago firm Beam and Raymond. See: Havard v. Wayne County, U.S.D.C. (E.D. Mich.), Case No. 2:06-cv-10449-SJM-MKM.

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Related legal case

Havard v. Wayne County