CRIME

‘Deliberately indifferent’: Jailers ridiculed woman wrongly arrested for DUI after suffering massive brain hemorrhage in crash, lawsuit says

Nicole McClure is suing after a Washington state trooper arrested her for DUI while she was having a medical emergency instead that led to permanent health problems. (Images from her lawyer)

A Washington state woman alleges in a lawsuit she was arrested for a DUI when she was suffering from a medical emergency after a car crash and the nightmare she endured to get immediate treatment led to a lifelong severe traumatic brain injury.

Nicole McClure, 38, alleges in a lawsuit that authorities ridiculed her for being drunk and offered her “another shot” at the Thurston County Jail on March 21, 2022, and only took her to the hospital the next morning after finding her unresponsive in a puddle of urine on the jailhouse floor.

Dubin Law Group takes Nicole’s injuries and experiences very seriously,” said her attorney, Anne Vankirk, in a statement to Law&Crime. “She is fortunate to still be alive today, but she will never be the same person she was that night. Justice for Nicole is at the forefront of our considerations.”

The lawsuit, alleging negligence, breach of duties, and vicarious liability, names as defendants Thurston County, the jail and Washington State Patrol (WSP). Chris Loftis, a WSP spokesperson, said the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation. The trooper involved was not disciplined, he said.

The complaint obtained by Law&Crime lays out the allegations that started that March night, when McClure was in a collision as a result of a medical emergency while driving home from work.

Before the crash, a trooper noticed her vehicle was traveling “at a noticeably slow rate of speed.” He approached with lights and sirens, but McClure’s vehicle continued to travel slowly west.

The trooper deactivated his lights and sirens and called for backup. Then McClure’s vehicle collided with the center of a roundabout at a traffic circle in Olympia. The impact disabled her vehicle.

She was arrested at gunpoint and handcuffed and was not given a Breathalyzer or roadside sobriety test, court documents said. Troopers saw that her eyes were bloodshot, and her speech was repetitive and slurred. Her eyelids were tremoring.

“Troopers observed that plaintiff’s behavior was erratic and she had difficulty following very simple instructions,” the complaint said.

She was taken to a hospital, where her blood was drawn, but a trooper made no mention of the crash to medical staff, the lawsuit alleges.

After the hospital visit, McClure was booked into the Thurston County Jail on charges of DUI and felony eluding, court documents said.

Over the next 24 hours, “jail staff made fun of plaintiff and ridiculed her for being a drunk,” court documents said.

“Jail staff offered plaintiff ‘another shot’ but did not get her the basic medical care she desperately needed, or even attempt to complete the booking process,” the documents added.

She was found the next morning unresponsive in a pool of her urine. She couldn’t stand and began vomiting profusely. She was taken to a hospital emergency department a few hours later.

Medical staff quickly took her into surgery. She had part of her skull removed to try to relieve pressure and to save her remaining brain function. She was hospitalized for 17 days.

Court documents said the delay in treatment resulted in sunken brain syndrome, a cranioplasty, and a lifetime of decreased capacity.

She continues to suffer from hemorrhage symptoms and a significant brain injury. She can’t work and will never be the same again, her lawyer said.

“Nicole is a hardworking young woman who will never be the same again,” the lawyer said. “Nicole suffers from severe traumatic brain injury and remains unable to care for herself or engage with life in meaningful ways. Had Nicole received immediate medical attention, her condition would have been significantly easier to treat and the outcome far less severe. Nicole had no substances in her blood according to the blood draw from the WSP at Capital Medical Center and the subsequent hospital screening.

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