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Settlement in Lawsuit Over Missouri Jail Prisoner’s Death

by Matt Clarke

The family of a prisoner who died at a Richland Heights, Missouri jail after untreated deep vein thrombosis caused a fatal pulmonary embolism has settled a lawsuit brought against the jail, two hospitals and hospital employees. The settlement was confidential but the city’s portion was released as a public record.

Anna Brown, a 29-year-old homeless woman, visited two hospitals in September 2011 complaining of severe pain in her leg. She sought medical assistance but what she received was humiliation, arrest and a painful death behind bars.

Brown first went to Saint Louis University Hospital with symptoms of fainting and pain in her left ankle and lower left leg. She was admitted for two days and released. She returned a short time later with continued complaints of extreme pain in her lower left leg; she was seen and discharged, but returned the next day for X-rays of her left knee.

Brown returned to the hospital four days later with the same complaints. When the hospital sought to discharge her, she refused to leave because she was still in pain. Doctors immobilized her left leg, contributing to the undiagnosed deep vein thrombosis she was experiencing; they then had the police remove her from the hospital.

That same day, Brown sought treatment at St. Mary’s Health Center. She refused to leave when doctors sought to discharge her, complaining of extreme abdominal and left leg pain. The police were called and she was arrested for trespassing and transported to a jail in Richmond Heights. Because the hospital said Brown was “fit for confinement” and able to walk, the officers assumed she was faking an inability to use her left leg and dragged her to the patrol car and into the jail, even though she told them “My legs don’t work!” They also mistook her developing respiratory difficulties for asthma.

Soon after she arrived at the jail on September 21, 2011, Brown died on a cell floor from a pulmonary embolism caused by a blood clot in her leg breaking loose and lodging in her lung. Her death was the subject of a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article that included video footage of one of the arresting police officers claiming Brown was a “drug seeker.”

With the assistance of attorney Daniel J. McMichael, Brown’s mother filed a lawsuit in state court on behalf of herself and Brown’s two minor children, alleging claims of wrongful death, medical negligence, false arrest and false imprisonment against the jail, the two hospitals and medical staff. The suit was settled under confidential terms in August 2017, though the city’s portion, which was made publicly available, was $568,750. See: Davis v. Tenet Health Systems, Circuit Court of St. Louis (MO), Case No. 1222-CC10603. 

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Related legal case

Davis v. Tenet Health Systems