DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – Wayne County has agreed to an $8 million settlement in a lawsuit involving a 14-year-old girl who lacked critical oxygen when she was born in jail.
Chelsie Barker suffered brain damage and is severely impaired. The county is accused of violating the girl’s civil rights by not getting her mother to a hospital for the delivery.
Chantrienes Barker was in jail in 1998 when she went into labor. She was taken to a hospital but was returned to jail two hours later. The lawsuit says her labor pains intensified but guards didn’t immediately respond, despite the screams of inmates.
The county had sought to dismiss the lawsuit, saying that under the landmark abortion decision Roe v. Wade, the jail officers were not liable because the child had no 14th Amendment right before she was born.
In Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a fetus is not a person under the 14th Amendment, which provides that the government shall not deprive any person of life or liberty without due process.
U.S. District Judge Stephen Murphy rejected the county’s argument however, telling county lawyers that the Roe v. Wade case is “not anywhere close” to the facts in Chelsie’s jail birth. He said that because the girl’s mother was in jail, county officers “had a duty to protect and care for Chelsie.”
The jail officers “had sufficient warning that the child was on the way and did not get her the medical care she needed immediately prior to, during, and after the birth,” Murphy said.
Attorney Lisa Weinstein of Chicago says the settlement was presented to a judge Thursday. Geoffrey Fieger’s firm also worked on the case.
Chelsie has been raised by a guardian since birth.
“She has brain damage,” Rebecca Walsh, an attorney for Chelsie’s guardian, said. “She walks with a walker… She will never be employable. She will need care 24 hours a day for her life.”
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