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$200,000 Settlement for Kentucky Woman in Jail Childbirth Suit

According to court documents, on May 15, 2017, Kelsey Love was 28, eight months pregnant, and a pretrial detainee at the Franklin County Regional Jail in Kentucky. Because of her pregnancy, she was isolated from other prisoners and deputy jailers were instructed to observe her every ten minutes. According to jail records, they looked in on her semi-regularly, but somehow missed that she was in labor. She ended up giving birth unassisted and without medical care.

The birth was discovered the next morning when a nurse saw a large amount of blood on the cell floor. By then, according to Love’s attorney, Aaron Joseph Bentley, Love had chewed off the baby’s umbilical cord, then ripped open her mattress and crawled inside with the baby to keep them warm.

“You can imagine it was pretty traumatic,” said Bentley.

With Bentley’s representation, Love filed a federal civil rights lawsuit alleging the jail violated her federal constitutional rights under the Fourteenth Amendment and Kentucky common law. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss. In ruling on the motion, the court held that, pursuant to the standard announced for the analysis of claims by pretrial detainees in Kingsley v. Hendrickson, 135 S.Ct. 2466 (2015). Love sufficiently pleaded that she suffered a serious medical condition, advanced pregnancy, and that the defendants were aware of yet recklessly failed to act to mitigate the excessive risk to health or safety posed by the medial condition.

Although Kingsley had not been applied to this type of claim in the Sixth Circuit, the court reasoned that Kingsley’s broad language showed that it should apply to all types of claims by pretrial detainees. The court noted that post-Kingsley cases that did not apply Kingsley in the 5th, 6th, 8th, and 11th Circuits did not contain any reasoning on why it should not be applied.

The finding pursuant to Kingsley was also sufficient to defeat assertions of qualified immunity. In a close call, the court also held that Monell liability had been sufficiently pleaded to establish local government liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Further the common law tort of negligence was sufficiently pleased. The motion to dismiss was therefore denied.

Defendants admitted no wrongdoing in settling the lawsuit for $200,000 and claimed jailers had no idea Love was in labor. Love said she screamed for medical help for two days after being placed in the isolation cell. According to jail records, a female guard observed Love on the floor of her cell, holding her stomach, and summoned a nurse. The nurse told the guard she would observe Love and eventually check on her later. Three hours later, when the nurse arrived at Love’s cell, they saw a large amount of blood on the floor and found Love and her baby in the ripped-open mattress.

After the settlement was announced, Love said she still had nightmares about being abandoned, in labor, and in jail. Formerly addicted to opioids and methamphetamine, Love had been arrested after driving her mother’s car, which had been reported stolen, on suspicion of impaired driving. She was two years sober and working to regain custody of her children when the case was settled.

Love was represented by Bentley of the Prospect, Kentucky, law firm of Belzley, Bathurst & Bentley and attorneys Michele D. Henry and Craig Henry of Louisville. See: Love v. Franklin Cnty., Civil No. 3:18-cv-00023-GFVT U.S.D.C. (ED Ky.). 


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Related legal case

Love v. Franklin Cnty.