County settles for $3.1M in woman’s jail-related death

Jail staff neglected a Whidbey Island woman as she became seriously ill, her family alleged.

Piper Travis

Piper Travis

EVERETT — Snohomish County reached a $3.1 million settlement Thursday in the case of a Whidbey Island woman who died after a two-week stay in jail.

Piper Travis, 34, became seriously ill while in custody and was diagnosed in December 2017 with meningitis, sepsis and acute respiratory distress. She died in the hospital on Dec. 16, surrounded by family.

An obituary in The Daily Herald said Travis lived most of her life on Whidbey Island, liked to travel and had a “fierce love for her family and friends.”

Almost exactly a year after Travis’ passing, her family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Seattle, alleging that Snohomish County Jail staff neglected Travis as her health declined, even as she screamed in pain and writhed on the floor. By the time she was taken to the hospital, she was unable to stand, talk, dress herself or control her bodily functions, plaintiffs wrote.

The plaintiffs called the actions of corrections staff “deliberate, inhumane and cruel,” alleging that they offered no treatment or meaningful medical assessment.

“They simply ignored Piper as she slowly and painfully decompensated before them,” the complaint states.

In a response to the complaint, the defendants denied several of the allegations made against them, including claims that they neglected Travis.

In reaching the settlement, the county admitted no wrongdoing. The family agreed to drop all claims against the county.

Attorney Cheryl Snow, representing the family, said the lawsuit also has reached a resolution regarding the other defendants in the case, including medical staffing company Health Pros Northwest. Details of that resolution, and whether those defendants settled as well, were not made public.

On Nov. 20, Travis was booked into the jail on two misdemeanor warrants. She appeared healthy at her bail hearing, the complaint stated.

“During the hearing, Piper conducted herself appropriately, answered questions rationally, and gave no indication whatsoever of illness or medical distress,” plaintiffs wrote.

Her health declined quickly while in custody, the lawsuit alleged. On Nov. 28, a corrections deputy found her crying on the floor, complaining about a bad headache and an “uncommon level of pain.” A nurse gave her ibuprofen, but made no plans to follow up, leaving Travis to make “noises of pain and anguish for hours,” plaintiffs wrote.

In the following days, Travis struggled to respond to directions, talked incoherently and soiled herself. One deputy allegedly wrote that “MAX is a good place for her.”

Medical staff reportedly didn’t take her vital signs until Dec. 1, when they noted that her blood pressure had spiked and that she hadn’t eaten or drunk anything in 20 hours.

Jail employees reportedly said that Travis only needed a psychological evaluation and suggested that she was “faking it.”

When emergency responders arrived, Travis was lying on a mattress in her own urine, hyperventilating, foaming at the mouth and experiencing seizure-like symptoms. She had a temperature of 102 degrees and she didn’t respond to verbal cues.

She was transported to Providence Regional Medical Center Everett. By Dec. 12, she lost all brain activity. She died four days later.

Conditions at the jail have drawn scrutiny over the past decade. The sheriff’s office instituted significant reforms, many of which followed a string of deaths leading up to 2015. There also have been a number of large settlements with families of inmates who have died behind bars, or during booking.

In 2011, Lyndsey Lason, 27, was found dead in her cell, having suffered a lung infection. The county agreed to a $1.3 million settlement, much of which went toward her 11-year-old son.

Michael Saffioti died from possible anaphylactic shock after eating breakfast at the jail in 2012. He was 22. The county paid a $2.3 million settlement in the case.

Another family received a $675,000 settlement for the 2014 death of Marilyn Mowan. The 62-year-old Everett woman died after she drank a lethal amount of water, according to the lawsuit.

Zachariah Bryan: 425-339-3431; zbryan@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @zachariahtb.

More in Local News

7 men arrested in Everett-based sting for child predators

The men thought they were going to rape an under-age girl, troopers said. Instead, they were arrested.

Fortney reinstates 2 more deputies fired by previous sheriff

Matt Boice and Evan Twedt were fired just months ago for the warrantless search of a car.

Supportive housing may be barred from single-family zones

The Everett City Council is set to vote on the issue, which may delay homeless student housing.

Deputy who fatally shot Edmonds man sued for dog bite

An investigation concluded Art Wallin broke policy when he unleashed a dog on a man in 2017.

Deputy marshals shoot Snohomish County fugitive in Las Vegas

The man was wanted on firearms and drug charges. His name and condition haven’t been released.

Inclusive playground planned for $13 million Edmonds park

A mother’s wish to honor her son inspires wheelchair-accessible equipment at future Civic Park.

Charges: Stanwood teacher held ex-wife hostage at gunpoint

Paul Erickson was hired months ago as a middle school science teacher. He’s jailed on felony charges.

Vehicle hits pedestrians, killing 1, hospitalizing another

Shirley E. Tinsley, 72, died and another person suffered unknown injuries.

Suspect detained after attack with pick axe in Lynnwood

The assault Saturday at 196th Street SW. and Highway 99 reportedly did not leave serious injuries.

Most Read