Historic $3 million settlement in Emily Rice case; horror lingers

On Thursday, news broke that the City of Denver is poised to pay a record $3 million to settle the two-year old case involving Emily Rice, the 24-year old who suffered a lacerated liver and spleen and bled to death in the city jail.

The proposed settlement includes a laundry list of policy changes that must be installed at the jail, including sensitivity training and other training, and establishes what is known as “Emily’s Rights” to dictate patient care at the jail.

The settlement may end the case involving Rice, who had been arrested for drunk driving after crashing her car. But the details about the way she was treated after the arrest — particularly by a male nurse named Kelly Costin — will linger on for much time to come.

To wit, here are some passages from the affidavit of Sheriff’s Deputy Jessica Jaquez, who happened to be a friend of Rice’s mother and was on shift at the jail when Rice was brought in — who detailed the numerous ways that nurse Costin treated Rice “the way someone might treat a dog.”

From Jaquez’ affidavit (the complete document can be read by clicking here):

“I escorted Emily to the telephone at the East Control Center so that she could telephone her mother. Emily did not appear well and was having much difficulty standing while she was on the telephone. She told me that she thought she was going to fall, so I gave Emily a milk crate to sit on while she made the call. I overheard Emily tell her mother that she had ‘wrecked the car’ and then I heard her say ‘OK, mom, I love you…’

“…At approximately 3:00 p.m., I escorted Emily to the nurse’s station. Deputy Minter was at the nurses station already. Either Deputy Minter or I handed Nurse Kelly Costin Emily’s envelope containing her medical records. I told Emily to get up on the gurney so that Nurse Costin could examine her and evaluate her symptoms. Emily told me that she was not physically able to get up on the gurney and that she was feeling very badly. All Emily was able to do was to rest her head in her arms on the gurney. All of this occurred in the presence of Nurse Costin.

“Even though I do not have any formal medical training, it was obvious to me that Emily was not well and needed medical care…

“Nurse Costin did nothing to evaluate Emily’s medical condition. Without asking Emily a single question, including without asking her about any symptoms she was experiencing, the car accident she had been in, or anything about her treatment at Denver Health Medical Center or what the doctors and nurses at Denver Health had told her, Nurse Costin stated, ‘She’s drunk. Let her go sleep it off.’ Nurse Costin did not take Emily’s vital signs. Nurse Costin did not take Emily’s blood pressure. Nurse Costin did not take Emily’s pulse. Nurse Costin did not even look at or speak to Emily. I observed that Nurse Costin was deliberately indifferent to Emily’s obvious serious medical needs…

“Deputy Minter … attempted to take Emily’s mug shot, but before she was able to do so Emily slid down the wall and slumped over onto her side, and her eyes rolled into the back of her head. Even as a layperson, it was obvious to me that something was seriously wrong with Emily and that she needed medical care. I went over to Emily to assist her but Deputy Minter reminded me that I was not to lift her up, as I was pregnant.

“I then went back to the nurse’s station and got Nurse Costin. I told him that the girl I had just brought in to him (Emily Rice) had just fallen at the booking station and he needed to come evaluate her. I was very concerned and communicated this concern to Nurse Costin.

“Nurse Costin replied, “Oh, drama. I knew that was going to happen.” Nurse Costin’s demeanor was that of contempt and as if he was being burdened by having to attend to Emily. Before he even saw her lying on the floor, he acted as though he already thought she was faking her symptoms. His demeanor was beyond unprofessional. It was downright inhumane.

“Nurse Costin and I returned to the booking station where Emily was still lying on the ground. Nurse Costin did not touch Emily except to kick at her foot the way someone might treat a dog. Nurse Costin did not make any effort to pick Emily up off the floor. In a very annoyed tone of voice, Nurse Costin yelled “Hey! Hey! Get up and go sleep this off.” Nurse Costin did not take Emily’s vital signs. Nurse Costin did not take Emily’s blood pressure. Nurse Costin did not take Emily’s pulse. Nurse Costin did not ask Emily any questions. Nurse Costin did not even touch Emily.”

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Cara Degette

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