Woman who gave birth in county jail files civil rights lawsuit

EVERETT — A woman who gave birth in the Snohomish County Jail in 2013 has filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court.

Tawni Kosnosky, now 27, alleges that jail staff ignored her cries for help and denied her medical care during the labor.

She gave birth on the toilet in her cell on Feb. 2, 2013. She had been booked five days earlier for a no-bail warrant related to allegations of forgery, possession of a controlled substance, possession of stolen mail and trafficking in stolen property.

Kosnosky, who weighed about 95 pounds, was seven months pregnant and being monitored for heroin withdrawals after she was booked, records show. She told jail staff she had not received any prenatal care and was using heroin every day.

The lawsuit, filed this week in U.S. District Court, alleges that Kosnosky asked multiple times for help during the labor and was told to lie down. She continued to ask for help and was told to stop pushing the emergency button in her cell, she alleges, before she gave birth “frightened and alone.”

The “outrageous conduct” by jail staff caused Kosnosky extreme distress, the suit says. It does not name a dollar amount. A claim filed against the county in October, as a precursor to the lawsuit, sought $150,000.

Snohomish County will review the lawsuit and respond, said Jason Cummings, the chief civil deputy prosecutor.

The sheriff’s office in 2013 reported that the baby arrived less than 30 minutes after Kosnosky’s water broke.

After the birth, Kosnosky and the baby boy were taken to Providence Regional Medical Center’s women’s pavilion. She was later sent back to the jail. State social workers were called to determine the custody of the newborn, who weighed less than 5 pounds.

The boy was placed with Kosnosky’s family, according to court papers.

Medical care at the jail has been the focus of other lawsuits, and reforms, after a series of inmate deaths starting in 2010. Significant changes have been made under Sheriff Ty Trenary, including increased medical staffing, reduced crowding and an overhaul of jail leadership.

In the 2013 court case, Kosnosky was found in possession of more than 30 pieces of stolen mail and tried to pass stolen checks.

After she was released from jail in that case, she attended drug treatment, but walked out of the treatment center despite a court order to seek help for her addiction, documents show. A warrant was issued for her arrest that May.

She was issued a summons on March 20 related to unpaid court fines. A hearing on the matter is scheduled later this month.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

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