Last summer, Jazmin Valentine screamed for hours – begging for help to deliver her baby – according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Maryland.
Ultimately, Valentine was forced to deliver her baby girl “alone, with no medical care or assistance of any kind, on the filthy, cold, hard floor of a cement and steel jail cell at the Washington County Jail,” in Hagerstown, Md., on July 4, said the lawsuit.
“What should have been one of the happiest days of her life was instead a day of terror, pain, and humiliation that continues to cause her ongoing emotional trauma,” according to Valentine’s attorneys.
Valentine was booked into the Washington County Detention Center around two days before her delivery, based on a warrant issued from Virginia alleging that she violated probation. According to the lawsuit, Sheriff’s Office personnel were aware that that she was more than eight months pregnant when she was booked and she was put in a cell in close proximity to a nurse’s station staffed by PrimeCare Medical personnel.
When Valentine went into labor, she alerted staff that she needed medical attention and screamed. However, the lawsuit alleges that she was left in her cell for more than six hours in a solitary confinement cell with no blankets or sheets as she begged for help.
“Another inmate in the jail heard Ms. Valentine screaming for help and placed a phone call to a friend, who in turn called Ms.
Valentine’s boyfriend, the father of the baby, alerting him that Ms. Valentine and the baby needed help urgently,” according to the lawsuit.
While Valentine’s boyfriend did call to check on her and their baby, “to no avail,” she “overheard a PrimeCare Medical nurse laughing while talking about Ms. Valentine’s boyfriend calling the jail.”
Other inmates also tried to alert staff that Valentine was in labor, the lawsuit said. It also alleges that PrimeCare nurses indicated that Valentine was lying, going through withdrawals or experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions instead of active labor contractions. Valentine even pulled out what she believed to be her amniotic sac and slid it under her cell door in an attempt to prove she was actually in labor, said the suit.
“Despite her notification to medical and jail personnel, none of the defendants took any action of any kind to make sure Ms. Valentine was being cared for medically,” the lawsuit alleges.
After Valentine delivered her daughter – her first child – on what the suit describes as “a filthy cell floor with no sanitation, no medical care, and no assistance of any kind,” she was allegedly left alone for 15 minutes. Finally, a deputy found her with the baby in her arms.
“Exhausted from labor and trapped in an unkempt and unsanitary jail cell, without so much as a response from the PrimeCare Medical nurses, Ms. Valentine was terrified that she and her baby would die,” said the suit. It said that paramedics did not arrive at her cell until a half an hour after her delivery and that, during that time, PrimeCare staff did not perform tasks such as warming the newborn, cutting the umbilical cord or cleaning the baby off.
Valentine arrived at the hospital at 1:13 a.m., more than an hour after her baby was born. At the hospital, “it was determined that the baby had contracted MRSA from being born in that cell.”
The lawsuit alleges that the jail and PrimeCare staffers were not reprimanded or removed for their posts.
Representatives for Valentine are seeking declaratory relief and injunctive relief that includes: compensatory damages, punitive damages, issuance of a formal written apology from each defendant, policy changes designed to avoid future similar misconduct, mandatory training designed to avoid future similar misconduct and attorney’s fees.
“As long as prison and jail administrators continue to treat human beings like animals, these atrocities will continue to occur,” said David Lane, Valentine’s attorney, in a statement provided to Audacy.
According to an Associated Press report, County spokesperson Danielle Weaver said the county had no comment and PrimeCare did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.