SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield City Council recently approved the use of $900,000 from the city’s free cash account to cover a legal settlement with the estate of Madelyn Linsenmeir, a woman who died while in custody in 2018.

Maura O’Neill, the administrator of Linsenmeir’s estate, filed suit in March 2020, and was represented by attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, Prisoners Legal Services of Massachusetts, the state Attorney General’s Office and the Goulston and Storrs law firm.

The city was named as a defendant in the case, along with the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department, Springfield Police Sgt. Moises Zanazanian, officer Remington McNabb, Sheila Rodriguez, Eileen Barrett and Maureen Couture. The suit alleged that despite Linsenmeir’s complainants of feeling “very ill” in the wake of her arrest on Sept. 29, 2018, Zanazanian, McNabb and Rodriguez — all Springfield city employees — intentionally denied her medical care, and in doing so, violated her 14th Amendment rights. A video from the booking area of the police station showed Linsenmeir asking Zanazanian, McNabb and Rodriguez to go to the hospital for chest pain, difficulty breathing and joint pain. A later video from the booking room shows her again speaking with the three Police Department employees, but no sound was recorded during that interaction.

Linsenmeir was later moved to the Western Massachusetts Regional Women’s Correctional Center under care of the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department. There, on Oct. 4, 2018, she was found unresponsive in a cell and transported to the hospital, where she died three days later. All the defendants were alleged to have contributed to her wrongful death, according to the suit.

The city argued that the court should dismiss the counts against it and the Police Department employees because Linsenmeir died after she was transferred to the correctional center. However, U.S. District Judge Mark Mastroianni disagreed, stating the municipal defendants’ “deliberate indifference directly ‘intensified’” Linsenmeir’s harm and “intentionally” not activating the audio recording during the second time she came into the booking room was “sufficient to plausibly suggest intentional conduct.”

Meanwhile, the Sheriff’s Department also sought dismissal of counts alleged against it and its employees — violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, failure to provide medical care and wrongful death. Attorneys for the Sheriff’s Department argued that Linsenmeir did not complain of an ADA-related medical issue and the lack of care does not violate the 14th Amendment. Mastroianni found that Linsenmeir was “plausibly” refused care “because of her opioid use disorder” and noted that she was allegedly told, “the situation was her own fault for using drugs.”

On April 2, the defendants asked U.S. District Magistrate Judge Katherine Robertson to take depositions from two people who were in the custody of the Sheriff’s Department at the same time as Linsenmeir and had observed her physical health and interactions with staff. Court records indicate that the defendants implied that they were “unfairly surprised” and “disadvantaged” by the witnesses’ signed declarations. Despite allowing the depositions with stipulations, Robertson expressed frustration that the defendants knew the identity of those housed around Linsenmeir at the correctional center, and that they had interviewed one of them in September 2020 and the other in March 2023, with the opportunity for depositions before the court’s deadline. The judge stated that the plaintiffs had waited five months after receiving one of the signed declarations before requesting to take the witness’s deposition.

The next day, a joint motion was filed to end the legal proceedings against the city and its employees.

The Sheriff’s Department confirmed to Reminder Publishing that its litigation with Linsenmeir’s estate is ongoing.

The $900,000 transferred to cover the settlement is equal to about 29% of the Law Department’s fiscal year 2024 budget of $3.09 million.

The city did not comment or make documents related to the settlement available to Reminder Publishing as the agreement is not yet final.

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