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Calif. county to pay $480,000 over delayed treatment of pregnant inmate who miscarried

Deputies took two hours to respond to the homeless woman’s call for help, then stopped at Starbucks on the way to the hospital; the woman lost the pregnancy


Orange County Jail in Santa Ana, Calif., on Aug. 29, 2018. Several high-ranking employees of the contractor that oversees the Orange County Jail phone system appeared in court this week to provide additional information about what was characterized as a “human error” that resulted in 1,079 privileged calls between inmates and their attorneys being improperly recorded over a three-year period. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times

By Gregory Yee
Los Angeles Times

SANTA ANA, Calif. - Sandra Quinones was pregnant and in Orange County jail for a probation violation when her water broke.

Deputies took two hours to respond to the homeless woman’s call for help, then stopped at Starbucks on the way to the hospital; Quinones, 28, lost the pregnancy.

On Tuesday, the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to pay Quinones, now 34, $480,000 to settle a federal lawsuit over delayed medical treatment during the March 2016 emergency. Deputies decided against calling an ambulance, then “acted with further deliberate indifference” to her medical needs when they stopped for Starbucks instead of taking Quinones directly to the hospital, her lawsuit said.

Quinones attorney, Richard Herman, said his client was “dysfunctional” and homeless and had mental health issues but persisted in her case. “She understands that she was wronged,” Herman said.

Her suit was dismissed in federal court in October 2020 but reinstated by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals the following year.

“She doggedly pursued this case, including all of its ups and downs,” Herman said. “This was a long, hard fight. We’re glad that this reached a successful conclusion.”

County officials confirmed the settlement amount and provided court documents, but declined to comment on the case. Sgt. Scott Steinle, an Orange County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson, said the law enforcement agency had no comment.

Herman was not able to say on Wednesday how many months pregnant his client was, but confirmed that she suffered a miscarriage. Her condition was not an excuse for jail staff to treat her as they did, he added.

“The Orange County jail is capable of sinking to the lowest depths,” Herman told The Times Wednesday. “Unfortunately this is not the only occasion.”

The lawsuit noted that Quinones “spent significant time” in jail after her miscarriage, but Herman said she is currently out of custody and living with her mother.

Zachary Schwartz, an attorney representing the county, could not be reached for comment.