Medical expenses

Ramsey County to pay $3M to settle jail’s excessive force lawsuit

Miri Monique Mozuch-Stafford sued Ramsey County and employees over injuries she sustained at the jail on Feb. 8, 2021. Mozuch-Stafford alleges that the jailers took her down to the ground in the jail and broke her leg. She says the fracture severed her artery and she didn’t receive medical attention for 17 hours, and was left with severe and permanent injuries and disfigurement. (Photo filed with the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Minnesota)

A $3 million settlement has been reached in a federal lawsuit filed by a woman who alleged correctional officers at the Ramsey County jail used excessive force, her attorneys said Tuesday.

Miri Mozuch-Stafford filed the civil rights lawsuit against Ramsey County and various employees. She said correctional officers tackled her to the ground when she was handcuffed with her arms behind her back at the jail. Her tibia was fractured and an artery was severed. She said she wasn’t taken for medical treatment for 17 hours.

“During this delay Ms. Mozuch-Stafford suffered severe and limb-threatening compartment syndrome, and she experienced a markedly worse medical outcome than would have resulted had she been treated in a timely manner,” her attorneys, Steve Meshbesher and Richard Student, wrote in a Tuesday statement.

Ramsey County Board Chair Trista MatasCastillo said Tuesday that “individual, family, and community health, safety and well-being are key values of Ramsey County. We hope that this settlement agreement helps Ms. Mozuch-Stafford with her continued healing and recovery from what happened at the Adult Detention Center.”

Student previously said Mozuch-Stafford’s case drew the attention of the FBI, which sent his law firm a letter indicating they had opened their own investigation. A local FBI spokesperson said Tuesday that the investigation is ongoing and they couldn’t provide further comment.

The Ramsey County Board of Commissioners expressed concerns to the Minnesota Department of Corrections about medical care provided to inmates at the jail, they said earlier this year. Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher, who is in charge of the jail, had also sounded the alarm about overcrowding.

The DOC said in February it conducted an investigation and that it showed staffing shortages led to delayed or denied medical treatment of inmates. The state agency ordered Fletcher to reduce the jail’s population, and the sheriff’s office submitted a plan to decrease the headcount by about 60 inmates by transferring them to other facilities.

“We are reviewing the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center’s plan to address the serious issues found by our Inspection and Enforcement Unit earlier this year,” DOC spokesman Andy Skoogman said Tuesday. “At the same time, we are closely monitoring the progress they are making toward compliance and working with the facility to ensure those in their custody are being treated appropriately and receiving the medical care they are entitled to by law.”

Lawsuit describes ‘takedown’

On Feb. 8, 2021, when Mozuch-Stafford was moved to a holding cell in the jail, a correctional officer “made a verbal comment or command” and she “began to engage the officer verbally,” said her lawsuit filed in September.

“During this verbal exchange, and without allowing Ms. Mozuch-Stafford time to comprehend and comply with the officer’s comment or command,” four correctional officers “proceeded to execute a disorganized and unreasonable takedown maneuver of Ms. Mozuch-Stafford, in which Ms. Mozuch-Stafford was pulled and pushed in different directions and punched in the face … all while Ms. Mozuch-Stafford was handcuffed behind her back, compliant, and not actively or passively resisting,” the lawsuit continued.

The county denied the allegations about the takedown in its legal response to the lawsuit, filed in November.

Miri Monique Mozuch-Stafford sued Ramsey County and employees over injuries she sustained at the jail on Feb. 8, 2021. (Photo filed with the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Minnesota)

The lawsuit named six correctional officers and a doctor employed by the county to provide medical care to jail detainees.

Mozuch-Stafford’s “leg is still in horrible shape, visibly and functionally,” Meshbesher said Tuesday. She faced having her leg amputated and her wound couldn’t be closed because of an infection.

If Mozuch-Stafford, now 30, had been quickly sent to the nearby Regions Hospital, “this probably wouldn’t have happened,” Meshbesher said. “But they just didn’t seem to care, so that’s an internal, institutional problem.”

She was at the jail after being “arrested without incident” by St. Paul officers at a hotel, “where Ms. Mozuch-Stafford had attempted to obtain shelter for the night and allegedly engaged in disorderly conduct,” her lawsuit said.

$360K in medical expenses

The takedown happened at 3:55 a.m. and the jail doctor examined her about 12:55 p.m. The doctor, who didn’t know at the time that Mozuch-Stafford “was experiencing a serious medical emergency,” ordered X-rays of Mozuch-Stafford’s leg, the county’s response said.

The X-rays were reviewed by a radiologist who wasn’t onsite and Ramsey County medical staff were awaiting the X-ray results before determining whether to send Mozuch-Stafford to the hospital, the county wrote. Progress notes from 9 p.m. stated the results were received, Mozuch-Stafford had a likely fracture and the on-call doctor was notified. She was taken to Regions within 30 to 45 minutes of the progress note.

Mozuch-Stafford had more than $360,000 in medical expenses. She is a nursing assistant by training and past experience, but “will be partially or totally unable to perform such work or similar work,” her lawsuit said.

Meshbesher said he’d like to see the Ramsey County jail “have more competency in their medical staff and people who care more, rather than are deliberately indifferent as to injuries sustained by people.” Video showed Mozuch-Stafford screaming in pain, but he said, “they disregarded it. … They just made the damage worse by their own behavior.”

Fletcher did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

A court record indicated a judge approved the settlement Tuesday and, as a result, dismissed the lawsuit.

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