Chelan County will pay $2.5 million to the family of an inmate who died while in custody at the county jail.

The county and family members of 42-year-old Blair Nelson reached a settlement in late April and the wrongful death lawsuit from the family was dismissed on Wednesday.

Nelson was found dead in her cell from alcohol withdrawal on Nov. 21, 2021 about 15 hours after being booked into the county jail on a DUI arrest.

The family claimed the jail failed to give Nelson necessary medical treatment.

The settlement is not an admission of guilt by the county.

Attorney Nathan Roberts of Tacoma-based Connelly Law Offices representing the family told KPQ that it was a substantial settlement. They hope the county will review its practices and look at it's procedures in handling inmates.

The family brought the lawsuit in the federal Eastern District Court of Washington in Spokane on Dec. 5, 2022.

Nelson was arrested by Wenatchee police at about 11:15 p.m. on Nov. 20, 2021.

She agreed to submit to a portable breath test, which recorded a reading of 0.256 blood alcohol level. The legal limit is .08.

She was then taken to the Chelan County jail, but because of her reading above .250, was transported to Central Washington Hospital to be medically cleared before booking.

At the hospital, she was treated by for a contusion above her eye leading to a black eye, and was medically cleared for jail.

Nelson was placed her in a holding cell at 3:14 a.m. and moved to a private cell at 6:25 a.m.

From that point onward, the parties disagree on material facts.

The county claims Ms. Nelson was properly monitored by correction staff between 7:45 a.m. and 11:38 a.m., as evidenced by the surveillance footage of her cell. The county claims Nelson was peaceful, sleeping comfortably and showing no sign of agitation.

The family claims no check was performed on Nelson and there was no way to know her condition.

The county said Nelson used the phone and walked without trouble during that time, but the family said she had difficulty using the phone in her cell and was having difficulty reaching anyone on the other end.

At approximately 12:15 p.m., two corrections deputies entered Nelson’s cell to deliver lunch. Nelson was unable to stand to retrieve her sack lunch and had visible tremors.

Because she “was not doing well,” and the correction officers suspected alcohol withdrawal, they alerted the jail nurse (licensed practical nurse - LPN) Kami Aldrich.

Aldrich gave her an assessment and administered Librium to Nelson.

The family claims Aldrich did not contact a medical provider as required by jail policy. The county disputed that account, saying Aldrich did in fact contact a provider. The family said there's no documentation of the contact.

Both parties agreed at 12:58 p.m., Nelson experienced a noticeable movement.

Plaintiffs claim the movement indicated a seizure. Defendants disagreed.

Both parties agree that there was no more movement from Nelson until she was found dead in her cell at 5:17 p.m.

The family asserted that between 12:58 p.m. and 5:17 p.m., Nelson was not placed on medical monitoring as called for under jail policy, received no additional assessment for medical staff, and received inadequate check-ins from non-medical jail staff, thus no one was alerted to the fact that she was in distress.

The family also claimed Aldrich falsified Nelson’s medical documentation, recording Librium was administered in doses, rather than one “loading dose”.

The county said adequate check-ins were performed, and at all times Ms. Nelson was monitored by video surveillance.

An autopsy was performed, and parties disagreed as to its specific findings.

At her deposition, the medical examiner who performed the autopsy stated that in her opinion, the ultimate cause of death was chronic alcoholism.

The family then brought lawsuit, claiming negligence and depravation of Nelson’s rights.

The attorneys representing the Nelson’s family, Connelly Law in Tacoma, are also representing the family of Joseph Verville, who died two months earlier in custody at the Chelan jail. That case is ongoing.

Like Nelson, Verville was under the care of jail nurse Aldrich.

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