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Canadian Woman Wins Settlement for Death of Son Born in Jail

by Derek Gilna

Julie Bilotta obtained a settlement from the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre in the Canadian province of Ontario after staff took nine hours to call emergency personnel when she went into early labor. Her son, Gionni, suffered a traumatic birth in September 2012, and succumbed to chronic breathing problems around a year later. [See: PLN, Oct. 2016, p.63].

Bilotta, who was eight months pregnant and in custody for probation violations on drug charges, began to go into labor about 11 a.m., but the nurse on duty failed to react to her pleas for help. According to Bilotta’s mother, Kim Hurtubise, “She was screaming, she was in a locked-down cell with another inmate ... inmates were saying ‘help her’ and they didn’t come into her cell until 5 p.m. The ambulance showed up an hour later and the baby was hanging by the feet,” she said.

“The baby was bruised from the waist down,” Hurtubise added. “They had to put the baby on a ventilator to breathe. They thought he was having seizures, they had to do a CT scan. My daughter had to have a blood transfusion.” Gionni’s short life was marked by a series of respiratory problems resulting from his difficult birth.

Correctional officials investigated the incident and released a report that found the nurse on duty had been on the job only four months and had no experience in delivering babies. The nurse was later disciplined by the College of Nurses of Ontario.

Bilotta filed suit seeking $1.3 million in damages, claiming negligence on the part of jail staff; she cited “the propensity for conflict between nurses and the corrections officers in determining the care for clients in a corrections setting.” According to her attorney, the terms of the February 2018 settlement were confidential. See: Bilotta v. Cochrane, Superior Court of Justice, Ontario, Case No. 14-62057. 

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Related legal case

Bilotta v. Cochrane