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Chicago Systematically Denies Medical Care to Detainees; $1 Million Verdict

Chicago Systematically Denies Medical Care to Detainees; $1 Million Verdict

by David M. Reutter

An Illinois federal jury awarded $1 million to a prisoner’s estate after finding the city of Chicago had a policy and practice of systematically depriving detainees in police lockups of needed medical attention and/or medication.

When May Molina, 55, a community activist, was arrested on a heroin possession charge in 2004, she reported that she suffered from diabetes, asthma and a thyroid condition upon intake into a Chicago police station lockup. Following her arrest, she began exhibiting significant signs of distress.

Her condition appeared serious enough for her criminal defense attorney to advise police that she needed medical attention. None was given. Just a day-and-a-half after her arrest, Molina died. Her estate filed suit.

Discovery in the case revealed that of the 30,000 people arrested in Chicago over a four-year period, 3,000 suffered from serious medical conditions. Of those, 70-80% were neither provided proper medical attention nor transported to a hospital for treatment or medication.

An expert, Michael Brasfield, testified that most cities hold detainees for a short time before transferring them to a county jail. Chicago, however, holds detainees in police lockups for as long as 48 hours. The city also has a policy of not allowing detainees to possess or take medication in the lockups, which have no medical personnel to evaluate or assess prisoners’ healthcare needs.

In November 2013, a federal jury found for Molina’s estate on its Monell claim that the city’s failure to provide needed medical care was a systematic and widespread policy and practice, and awarded $1 million in compensatory damages. On February 4, 2014 the district court entered an order granting $2.5 million in attorney fees and costs to the estate by stipulated agreement of the parties.

“They can’t just ignore people like that in a cell,” Molina’s son, Sal Ortiz, said after the jury verdict. “Now they’re going to start paying attention. Absolutely. They have to.”

Molina’s estate was represented by attorneys from the Chicago law firm of Loevy & Loevy. See: Ortiz v. City of Chicago, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Ill.), Case No. 1:04-cv-07423.

Additional source: Chicago Tribune


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Related legal case

Ortiz v. City of Chicago