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$650,000 Settlement in Oregon Jail Wrongful Death Claim

The Linn County Sheriff’s Office has agreed to settle a wrongful death claim filed by the estate of a woman who died while imprisoned at the Oregon county’s jail.

In November 2014, Samantha Jeanne Robinson, 42, was sick with bacterial pneumonia and missed an appointment in drug court. She had been at the hospital and was told to see a doctor if she wasn’t better in two or three days. Realizing she had missed the appointment, she turned herself in to the Lebanon Police Department, which took her to the Linn County jail.

After being booked, she was celled with an old friend, Jodi Cook. Robinson’s condition deteriorated, and both she and Cook tried to get medical attention. However, jail guards mocked Robinson, accused her of “faking” and repeatedly refused to take her to the medical department.

“How do you fake a high fever?” asked Cook. “She couldn’t hardly move.” Early on November 16, 2014, on her eighth day at the jail, Robinson stopped breathing. Cook tried to revive her.

“I was doing CPR on her when the guards came in and they pulled me off her and kicked her around like she was nothing,” Cook stated. “Kept telling her she was faking it and she was already gone.”

Dr. Stephen Fletcher, a medical examiner and surgical pathologist for Samaritan Albany General Hospital, called Robinson’s death “very preventable.” He said she would have been quickly diagnosed and effectively treated at a hospital emergency room.

Linn County Sheriff Bruce Riley said he “stood by” his staff “for the difficult job they do,” and did not indicate that any jail employees had been disciplined or fired in connection with Robinson’s death.

“The culture [at the jail] needs to shift if we want to prevent further deaths,” said Kelly Chorlton, Robinson’s daughter.

Aided by Albany, Oregon attorney Daniel A. Rayfield, Robinson’s estate filed a wrongful death claim. According to a May 9, 2017 news report, Linn County agreed to settle the case for $650,000. Of that amount, $235,972.02 was for attorneys’ fees and $18,335.73 for costs, leaving $395,692.25 to be split between Robinson’s three heirs. See: In the Matter of Estate of Robinson, Linn County Circuit Court (OR), Case No. 14PB02525. 

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Related legal case

In the Matter of Estate of Robinson