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$1 Million Paid by Snohomish County Jail to Settle Detainee’s Opioid Withdrawal Death Lawsuit

On October 21, 2019, Snohomish County, Washington, agreed to pay $1 million to settle a lawsuit related to the death of Lindsay Kronberger. Kronberger had been a detainee at the Snohomish County Jail (“SCJ”) before she died in January 2014 of causes related to dehydration and opioid withdrawal. The suit was brought by Kronberger’s husband, John T. Gohranson, and by her father, Dale R. Kronberger (“Plaintiffs”).

The suit alleged that on January 3, 2014, the 24-year-old Kronberger was booked into the SCJ.

Kronberger self-reported she was addicted to heroin and answered “yes” when asked if she had withdrawal problems. She told Registered Nurse (“RN”) Joy Maine that she had used heroin earlier that morning. Maine placed Kronberger in the Medical Housing Unit (“MHU”) and put her on detox watch for heroin withdrawal.

Addicts undergoing withdrawal experience symptoms that include vomiting and diarrhea. While withdrawal is not fatal, excessive vomiting and diarrhea can lead to dehydration, which can be, and in this case was.

Handwritten “Progress Notes” by medical staff listed Kronberger’s weight as 97 pounds. The following day, staff evaluated Kronberger, observing that her blood pressure was low and her heart rate elevated. By January 5, Kronberger’s blood pressure had fallen to 90/50 and her heart rate was at 144.

According to the suit, these vital signs suggested dehydration and shock that may have required medical intervention to prevent serious injury or death. Instead, on January 6, Kronberger was released from the SCJ after being medically cleared by a nurse.

Kronberger was booked back into the SCJ only hours later. Powell placed Kronberger on detox watch for heroin withdrawal and assigned her to the MHU. On the evening of January 7, a nurse gave Kronberger a medication to control nausea, but nothing in the medical records indicates how much or how often Kronberger was vomiting. Kronberger continued to report that she was vomiting and had diarrhea.

By January 11, her blood pressure was 80/40 yet no physician ever examined Kronberger. She requested to go to the hospital, but her request was denied.

On January 12, a jail guard denied Kronberger’s request for a wheelchair. Two guards half carried, half dragged her to her cell because she couldn’t stand or walk. Later that day, Kronberger nearly passed out as she tried to get some juice. Maine reported she last saw Kronberger sleeping in her bed at 9:30 p.m.

Early on the morning of January 13, a jail deputy observed Kronberger face down in the toilet. Efforts to resuscitate her failed, and she died without regaining consciousness. An autopsy revealed she weighed just 89 pounds and had lost 8 pounds over the nine days she was detained in the SCJ.

Surveillance video released during discovery revealed a jail sergeant and a deputy laughing about and mimicking Kronberger’s condition. More than a dozen people died at the SCJ between 2010 and 2014. The Plaintiffs were represented by Brewe Layman, P.S., and by Cogdill Nichols Rein Wartelle Andrews. See: Gohranson v. Snohomish County, No. C16-1124 (2019). 

 

Related legal case

Gohranson v. Snohomish County