Vermilion County Sued Over Dangerous, Inhumane Jail Conditions for Newborn

Detainee’s Cellmate Assists in Childbirth in Filthy Cell
After Jail Officials Refuse Medical Aid, Ambulance

CHICAGO – Tonight attorneys for the guardian of an infant born into a filthy Vermilion County jail cell in 2014 filed suit in Central Illinois Federal Court on behalf of the infant, who suffered serious, continuing injuries as a result of the ordeal.

As his mom writhed in agony after Vermilion County Sheriff’s Deputies refused to render medical aid or call an ambulance, she sat down on the cell toilet and the infant was delivered into the filthy toilet bowl below. The infant, known as “OJ,” lay there in the toilet water with umbilical cord attached for many minutes until paramedics finally arrived.

Only after the traumatic birth, did jail officials finally heed the pleas of the mother and her cellmate for them to call an ambulance. Once they arrived, the paramedics removed OJ from the toilet and cleared the abundant mucous from his throat so that he could cry.

He and his mother were transported to the hospital with the umbilical cord still uncut, the mother handcuffed to a gurney. Upon arrival at the hospital, OJ was immediately taken away from his mother.

Four days previously, on April 2, 2014, OJ’s mother was brought to the jail with an already overdue pregnancy. Despite her repeated requests, she was denied any prenatal care or examinations. When she began to feel contractions on the evening of April 5, she was again denied medical assistance, despite her requests. She was told she could only get care once her water broke or when the baby’s head started crowning, and when she reported leaking, she was given a pad to “prove” that her water had indeed broken.

Aside from being assigned a pregnancy diet upon her entry, the only medical care she received in the jail was from her cellmate during childbirth. Her cellmate had absolutely no medical training or qualifications.

According to the suit, “O.J. did not get any of the medical care newborns should receive, including cutting the umbilical cord, suctioning the fluid from his mouth and lungs, cleaning his eyes, getting warmth, or having physical contact with his mother until he was transported to the hospital well after he was born…. [At the hospital he] required the use of a respirator. O.J. was sent home on the respirator, which he uses periodically to this day. O.J. suffered developmental delays and was slow to hit his early childhood developmental milestones, including talking and walking.”

Ms. Miller is represented by Attorneys Sarah Grady and Rachel Brady of the Chicago-based civil rights firm Loevy & Loevy Attorneys at Law. Loevy & Loevy is one of the nation’s largest civil rights law firms, and over the past decade has won more multi-million dollar jury verdicts than any other civil rights law firm in the country.

A copy of the suit, Sarah Miller, as guardian and next friend of O.J., a minor, v. Patrick Hartshorn, Kevin Maskel, Nicole Rouse, Laurie Bernardi, Unknown Vermilion County Sheriff’s Department Employees, and the County of Vermilion, No. 2:18-cv-02050-CSB-EIL, is available here.

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