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$3 Million Settlement for Illinois Pretrial Detainee’s Opioid Withdrawal Death

by David M. Reutter

A $3 million settlement in the 2020 withdrawal death of Illinois pretrial detainee Elissa A. Lindhorst at the Madison County Jail was fully executed on May 10, 2023.

Lindhorst, 28, was another casualty of the opioid epidemic that has caught so many law enforcement and jail officials flat footed. She was arrested on February 20, 2020, when she appeared in court with an outstanding arrest warrant for possession of a controlled substance. Lindhorst was taken into custody without incident, but during the booking process, she became ill, began vomiting and requested aid for opioid withdrawal.

Nurse Kathy L. Nodine claimed to complete a “sick slip” form requesting medical assistance. But no such document existed in Lindhorst’s medical file. For the next three days, Lindhorst languished in her cell, lying on the floor in her own vomit. She was not eating. Yet no guards or medical staff took action.

“Prior to her death, fellow detainees in the Madison County Jail heard Elissa beg for help and state that she felt like she was dying,” according to the complaint filed on her behalf. “These fellow detainees did all they could to help Elissa. They received no assistance from the defendants, except for a mop and bucket to clean up Elissa’s vomit.”

Other detainees stated they filled out a sick slip on Lindhorst’s behalf, but staff discarded it. “Notably, in the hours leading up to Elissa’s death, surveillance video shows fellow detainees pulling Elissa out of her cell and attempting to provide medical care as they yell repeatedly for help,” the suit stated.

Nurse Alisia Rushing administered CPR, but “due to the deliberate indifference of [Defendants],” the complaint continued, Lindhorst’s condition “had progressed by the morning of February 24, 2020, to the point of severe dehydration, and she aspirated her vomit, causing her lungs to become congested and inflamed.” She was pronounced dead at 8:30 a.m.

The suit was originally filed on February 11, 2021. The May 4, 2023, settlement provides for Madison County’s insurer, States Self-Insurers Risk Retention Group, to pay $1.4 million. Madison County paid the remaining $1.6 million. The settlement also requires the County to provide “additional training addressing opioid withdrawal symptoms” to jail staff. The settlement included fees and costs for the Estate’s attorneys from the Meyer and Kiss Law LLC in Chicago. See: Schmidt v. Madison Cty., Illinois, USDC (S.D. Ill.), Case No. 3:21-cv-00152.  

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Related legal case

Schmidt v. Madison Cty., Illinois