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$480,000 Paid by California County to Detainee Whose Newborn Died After Guards Stopped at Starbucks en Route to Hospital

by Ashleigh N. Dye

On August 23, 2022, the Board of Supervisors of California’s Orange County approved a settlement providing $480,000 to a former detainee in the county jail who went into labor and waited hours to reach a hospital — even while transport guards dawdled at Starbucks — after which the baby she had then died.

Sandra Quinones was six-months pregnant and serving a 70-day sentence in a county jail when her water broke in March 2016. Quinones pressed the emergency button in her cell and called for help repeatedly for two hours before she got any response. Guards then sent her to a local hospital, but on non-emergency status. Thanks to that mislabeling, transporting guards stopped at a Starbucks while Quinones was in the backseat “bleeding and in labor,” according to the suit she later filed. Her baby was then born and died at the hospital.

With the aid of Irvine attorney Richard P. Herman and attorney Nicholas P. Kohan of Kohan Bablove LLP in Newport Beach, Quinones filed suit in federal court for the Central District of California in April 2020. The suit did not specify a cause of death for Baby Quinones, but it alleged that jailers and transport guards showed negligent disregard for Quinones and her child. It also listed other infant and fetus deaths that occurred between 2012 and 2019 at the county jails. [See: PLN, Dec. 2019, p.20.]

Quinones has been diagnosed with severe posttraumatic stress disorder and depression. Since the death of her baby, she has been homeless or in custody due to “her inability to function and take care of her affairs after the incident as a result of the severe emotional harm in combination with her mental impairments,” her suit claimed. She also claimed to suffer harassment from jailers, who allegedly told her that “she did not deserve to have a baby and to not make an issue out of the incident,” and even threatening to charge her with the baby’s death.

After her initial suit was dismissed, Quinones refiled her complaint, and it was dismissed as time-barred. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said the lower court misapplied the law, and it reversed that decision on December 9, 2021. See: Quinones v. Cty. of Orange, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 36293 (9th Cir.).

After that, the parties proceeded to reach their settlement agreement. See: Quinones v. Cty. of Orange, USDC (C.D. Cal.), Case No. 8:20-CV-00666. 

Additional source: New York Times

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