Orange County recently agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed after an inmate was forced to give birth unassisted behind bars and lost her baby as a result.
This week, the Orange County Board of Supervisors approved a $1.5 million settlement to end a lawsuit filed on behalf of Ciera Stoelting, a woman who lost her baby in childbirth while she was an inmate in an Orange County jail. According to the suit, which was filed on May 12, 2018, “county employees in the jail failed to provide adequate medical care as Stoelting gave birth while sitting on the toilet of her cell.”
The settlement was unanimously approved on Tuesday. According to court documents, attorneys representing the country “described the baby’s birth as a stillbirth, despite the contention by Stoelting’s attorney that the baby was born alive and did not die of a miscarriage.” The incident itself happened back on May 12, 2018. On that day, Stoelting told a jail nurse that “she was having contractions and needed to go to a hospital.” Instead, she was “moved to an infirmary pod in the jail and told to drink at least eight cups of water and wait to see a doctor the following day.” Unfortunately, Stoelting “began giving birth while sitting on the toilet inside the infirmary cell,” and even though she called for medical assistance, “jail staff egregiously sat by and watched while Stoelting finished laboring and delivering the baby.”
In a written response to the complaint, county attorneys “denied that Stoelting ever asked to go to a hospital or see a doctor.” From there, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office “cleared jail staff of any criminal wrongdoing regarding what a prosecutor referred to as a ‘fetal demise’ in a letter to Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes outlining the results of their investigation.”
According to a letter from the DA’s office, Stoelting was an inmate at the jail after being arrested on suspicion of drug possession and transportation charges. The letter further read that she had “told an obstetrician that she had been using methamphetamine since her early teens, including during her pregnancy.” On the day of the labor and delivery, “a nurse heard Stoelting say ‘I am having the baby’ at about 11 a.m. and called paramedics, who arrived in the infirmary at 11:18 a.m.,” according to the DA letter. The letter further noted that the “paramedics determined that what the DA report referred to as a fetus was not fully developed and was deceased.”
The suit disputed the DA report and argued that “Stoelting gave birth and the baby died after leaving her body.” Furthermore, it referred to “the in-custody death of her son, whom it identifies as Noah Stoelting.”