As outlined in today’s Associated Press story, the family of Victoria “Tori” Herr, represented by KRMFL and co-counsel from Neufeld, Scheck and Brustin, reached a $4.75 million settlement with Lebanon County resolving civil rights claims concerning Tori’s death at the Lebanon County Correctional Facility.
Tori, who struggled with heroin addiction, was arrested on March 27, 2015 at the age of 18. She alerted correctional staff to her addiction upon arrival at the facility. Over the next four days, Tori endured dramatic withdrawal symptoms, which went largely untreated. After a visit to the medical unit on March 31, she collapsed on the floor. Instead of returning her to the medical unit, correctional staff brought Tori to her housing area, where she once again collapsed on the floor and went into cardiac arrest.
Tori never regained consciousness and died at a hospital on April 5, 2015.
Medical experts believe that a simple trip to the emergency room for intravenous fluids would have saved Tori’s life. “Tori Herr should not have died in the Lebanon County Correctional Facility,” Jonathan Feinberg of KRMFL told the Lebanon Daily News. “She had a serious condition which easily could have been treated.”
After Tori’s death, as alleged in the lawsuit, the prison failed to conduct an internal investigation of the circumstances that led to the failure to treat Tori’s dangerous condition. The Pennsylvania State Police conducted an investigation, but, as information provided throughout the lawsuit showed, the prison failed to address the multiple problems discovered in that investigation.
As also alleged in the suit, medical staff at the facility concocted a web of falsehoods designed to disguise their wrongdoing. One nurse testified that she checked Tori’s vital signs during Tori’s visit to the medical unit. Medical records and the testimony of other medical officials contradicted the nurse’s claim and demonstrated an egregious mishandling of the situation, with tragic consequences.
The AP story reports: “Herr, severely dehydrated, had begged for lemonade in a phone call with her mother on March 30. Stephanie Moyer tried to visit later that day, but was turned away and told her daughter was fine. The next time she saw Herr… she was on a ventilator.”
The settlement is believed to be one of the largest civil rights settlements involving a jail or prison death in Pennsylvania within the past ten years.
Jonathan Feinberg of KRMFL, who litigated the case along with Emma Freudenberger and Rick Sawyer at Neufeld, Scheck and Brustin LLP, said, “The days of viewing people addicted to drugs as junkies unworthy of sympathy and care are long past.”