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Woman Sues County, Town Over Death Of Baby

February 27, 1986

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ A woman who gave birth while being held on drunken driving charges says in a federal suit that officials told her she could not have medical attention until she had posted bail.

The woman, Wanda Charlene Boswell, said in the suit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court, that her infant boy died 34 minutes after birth.

The suit accuses Sherburne County, the community of Elk River and the local fire and ambulance service of negligence and says officials should have sought medical attention when she experienced vaginal bleeding and cramps shortly after her arrest in March 1984 on suspicion of drunken driving.

Alvin Ziontz, an attorney for Boswell, declined to say how much in damages was being sought, and the suit does not specify any amount.

The baby would have survived, ″had proper medical assistance been provided to Boswell when it first became apparent that she was in need of such assistance,″ the suit alleges.

″The birth of Boswell’s son commenced en route to the hospital,″ the suit said.

Boswell received no emergency care on the way to Mercy Medical Center in Coon Rapids and ambulance personnel did not radio the hospital to alert the medical staff of her condition, the suit says.

″I’m not familiar with that (suit),″ Sherburne County Sheriff Richard Witschen said Wednesday. ″I have not seen any paperwork.″

Ziontz said the local officials violated his client’s civil rights.

The suit says Boswell, an American Indian, faced deliberate indifference to her serious medical needs because ″of racial animus.″

Boswell was arrested after her car was stopped on suspicion of drunken driving, Ziontz said. A computer check indicated she faced outstanding warrants from Crow Wing County for a conditional release violation requiring $50 bail and Becker County for harvesting rice without a license, requiring $150 bail, the suit says.

It says that when she was booked, Boswell was 28 to 30 weeks pregnant, and she told jail personnel that she was having a difficult pregnancy and gave them the name and telephone number of her doctor.

After she experienced cramps and bleeding, Boswell asked to see a doctor, the suit says, but a jailer told her she would have to post bail before she could do that.

″Boswell continued to demand medical assistance,″ the suit says. ″Her cramps began to occur more frequently and more intensely. Her body became numb. All she could do was cry, lay on her back and call for help.″

She was taken to the hospital after the jailer talked with an Elk River police officer who told him to call an ambulance, the suit says.

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