Massachusetts City Agrees To $900,000 Settlement For Death Of A 30-Year-Old Woman In Custody

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) — A Massachusetts city will pay a $900,000 settlement to the family of a Vermont woman who died in police custody to settle a lawsuit over authorities' failure to provide adequate medical care.

The Springfield City Council voted Monday to approve the settlement in the case of Madelyn Linsenmeir, a 30-year-old mother whose obituary drew national attention for its candid and heartbreaking discussion of opioid addiction.

Linsenmeir's family sued the city of Springfield, Massachusetts, and the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department, saying law enforcement officials ignored Linsenmeir's pleas for help before she died of an infected heart valve.

Her obituary was shared widely for its direct mention of her struggle with drug addiction, encouraging readers to see addiction as a disease and “not a choice or a weakness.”

It urged workers in rehabilitation settings, hospitals, jails and courts to treat people battling substance use disorders with compassion and respect.

“If instead you see a junkie or thief or liar in front of you rather than a human being in need of help, consider a new profession,” relatives wrote in an obituary.

The lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts contended Linsenmeir was arrested in September 2018 and charged with being a fugitive from a warrant in New Hampshire and giving a false name. Video after her arrest shows Linsenmeir telling police she was in pain, and “might need to go to the hospital.”

She was taken to the Western Massachusetts Regional Women’s Correctional Center, where the plaintiffs contend she spent several days and didn’t receive appropriate care. On Oct. 4, medical staff saw that she was in distress, and she was taken to the hospital, according to the lawsuit. She died there days later while in the custody of the sheriff’s office.