By Randy Pierce
During the second of two special meetings of the Madison County Board held on successive Wednesdays late last month, a motion was unanimously approved to settle a claim filed by the mother of a local area woman concerning her death a little over three years ago following her confinement at the county jail.
Along with offering Rana Schmidt the sum of $3 million in regard to the lawsuit, the board additionally approved the establishment of a training program for field officers and personnel at the county jail to help them with identifying and responding to signs of opiate and drug withdrawal.
No specifics concerning when that training will occur, at what cost and how it will be administered were included in the approved motion.
Included in the resolution approving the settlement, as presented by board member Michael “Doc” Holliday Sr. of Alton following a closed session to discuss the terms, $1.4 million of the total awarded to Schmidt will come from the county’s excess insurance carrier, States Self-Insurers Risk Retention Group, with the remainder to be taken from the current fiscal year’s tort fund account.
Schmidt’s daughter, Elissa Lindhorst of Glen Carbon, passed away at the age of 28 on February 24, 2020, with her obituary on the legacy.com web site indicating the place of her death as Anderson Hospital in Maryville. Along with her mother, she is survived by four sisters and a beloved canine pet, Peanut, who served as an example of her devotion to animals.
The litigation filed by Schmidt stated the death occurred while Lindhorst was being held in custody at the county jail in Edwardsville. It alleges that the staff there failed to provide necessary medical assistance to Lindhorst when there were obvious signs that she needed it.
The absence of sufficient response to Lindhorst’s condition was, the lawsuit stated, in violation of Illinois Department of Corrections county jail standards regarding medical evaluation procedures and the result of inadequate training of those who would be responsible for reacting to the situation prior to her passing away.
Madison County Sheriff John Lakin, who has since retired, 17 employees of the sheriff’s department and the medical services provider for the jail were all named in Schmidt’s lawsuit.
In accusing the county jail staff of denying Lindhorst her “constitutional rights to medical care” while she was detained, the litigation further accused the responsible individuals with “deliberate indifference” while additionally calling their actions “unnecessary and wanton affliction of pain.”
Lindhorst, since her death, had been described in Schmidt’s multiple filings as suffering from fentanyl withdrawal resulting in vomiting and dehydration while in the jail along with a mention that the autopsy revealed she showed the existence of amphetamine and alcohol in her system.
Having been arrested and taken to the county jail in Edwardsville as a result of an outstanding warrant from the Hartford Police Department, Lindhorst had been accused of unlawful possession of a controlled substance. The litigation further stated that other inmates at the jail attempted to alert the staff there about the seriousness of Lindhorst’s condition.
During the course of the process leading up to the settlement action by the county board, Lakin and a female who was on guard duty in the jail at the time of Lindhorst’s referenced confinement had filed a motion to dismiss the original litigation.
United States District Judge Stephen P. McGlynn denied that motion to dismiss concerning four counts of the legal charges against the county but upheld that same motion in regard to five other counts, thus authorizing the process to move forward in the direction of the settlement.
In the response to the dismissal motion, which cited numerous examples of case law taken into consideration by McGlynn, it was mentioned that the purpose of such dismissal requests “is to test the sufficiency of the complaint, not to decide its merits.”