EVERETT — The family of a 24-year-old woman who died at the Snohomish County Jail while in the throes of heroin withdrawal has agreed to settle a federal lawsuit against the county for $1 million.
Lindsay Kronberger vomited repeatedly and showed signs of severe dehydration for more than a week before her death in the jail’s medical unit on Jan. 13, 2014. Surveillance video allegedly documented corrections officers mocking the woman as she suffered in her cell, the lawsuit claimed.
In reaching the settlement, the county admitted no fault. Documents were signed by both sides last week.
“RNs and corrections personnel ignored Lindsay’s deteriorating condition, failed to consult with more experienced medical staff (ARNP or physician), and failed to transfer her medical care to a hospital despite clear signs of imminent peril over the last few days of her life,” the lawsuit alleged.
When booked into the jail in connection with a domestic violence case, nurses described Kronberger as “emaciated” and recorded her weight as just 97 pounds. The young woman informed staff she had problems with withdrawal, and said she had last used heroin that morning. They placed her on “detox” watch.
During her nine days in custody, Kronberger’s blood pressure remained low, with an elevated heart rate. She lost 8 pounds during that time.
The medical examiner concluded that she died of “probable cardiac arrhythmia due [to] dehydration with electrolyte abnormalities due to opioid withdrawal,” according to the complaint.
Kronberger was one of more than a dozen people who died at the jail between 2010 and 2014. Those cases have resulted in several large legal payouts to families.
Her death came shortly after the sheriff’s office received a federal report about the jail that identified problems with inadequate staffing, overcrowding and outdated health policies that posed medical risks to inmates. The sheriff’s office asked a consultant from the National Institute of Corrections to provide an outside perspective after two high-profile deaths involving inmates who, like Kronberger, were both in their 20s.
Since then, the sheriff’s office has instituted a number of reforms, including a substantial increase in medical staffing. Additionally, jail staff now decline to book some inmates who are deemed too sick.
The changes haven’t stopped all of the problems, though.
Last month, the county reached a $3.1 million settlement related to the death of Piper Travis, a 34-year-old Whidbey Island woman who died in 2017 after becoming seriously ill while at the jail.
Separately, the jail in September extended a pilot program so all inmates can access Suboxone, a drug known to ease withdrawal symptoms and increase chances of beating addiction.
The county jail falls under the authority of Sheriff Ty Trenary, who since taking over the office in mid-2013 has pushed for changes to address in-custody deaths. Trenary is running for re-election this year against sheriff’s Sgt. Adam Fortney.
The Kronberger lawsuit was filed in 2016 by her husband, John T. Gohranson, as the personal representative for her estate. The plaintiff was represented by Everett-based attorneys Karen D. Moore, Kenneth Brewe, Mark Giuliano, Todd Nichols and Mitch Cogdill. Gohranson filed the complaint in U.S. District Court in Seattle, after submitting a tort claim to the county that demanded up to $10 million in damages.
Also named in the suit were Trenary and corrections deputies, all in their official capacity, as well as medical staff.
As part of the suit, Gohranson last year settled with two private contractors who provided medical staffing for the jail. The details of those settlements are confidential.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @NWhaglund.