Colleen Garot, a mother of two, now requires around-the-clock care at a skilled nursing facility.
The county of San Diego has agreed to pay $9.5 million to a woman who suffered a debilitating stroke in the Las Colinas jail in Santee five years ago.
The lawsuit that led to the settlement argues that when Colleen Garot was arrested, deputies and later jail medical staff should have recognized signs of head trauma that needed immediate medical attention.
Instead, she was booked into jail, where, over a three-day period, the swelling, bruising and neurological symptoms she had had since deputies first encountered her worsened until she suffered a stroke.
“As the result of the repeated denial of medical care, Ms. Garot spent her time in Defendants’ custody in unnecessary and excruciating pain, suffering and agony,” the lawsuit says.
Garot, a mother of two, now requires around-the-clock care at a skilled nursing facility.
She uses a wheelchair, and her ability to move her arms and legs is limited. In video clips her lawyers shared with the Union-Tribune, she struggles to communicate verbally or recall basic details about her life.
Garot’s payout brings to nearly $60 million the amount the county has paid over the last five years to people who have died or been seriously injured in sheriff’s custody. Hers is the second-largest payout in that time.
The largest settlement, $12 million, was paid earlier this year to the family of Lucky Phounsy, who died after being beaten, repeatedly tasered and hogtied during a struggle with sheriff’s deputies.
A Sheriff’s Department spokesperson said he could not comment on Garot’s case specifically, but said that the department “strives to provide the best medical care to all persons who encounter our deputies.
“Whether in custody or in public, anytime deputies recognize that there is a need for medical care, they are to request an emergency medical response or transport those in need to a local hospital for care,” Lt. David LaDieu wrote in an emailed statement.
Garot was 45 when she was arrested at her home in Encinitas, where sheriff’s deputies had gone to evict her the morning of April 13, 2018. Once there, they discovered she had an outstanding warrant tied to a 2017 DUI.
Severe bruising around Garot’s left eye is visible on body camera footage. The condition, known as “raccoon eye,” should have been recognized as a sign of head trauma, said Garot’s attorney, Eugene Iredale.
In Garot’s case, the bruising was caused by a subdural hematoma, hospital records would later reveal — internal bleeding that was putting pressure on her brain. Smaller bruises and abrasions dotted her forehead and arms, video footage shows.
Garot had trouble walking to the patrol car and told deputies she had “a very weird affliction” and was “in neurological hell.”
Her lawsuit argues that the deputies who arrested her had been trained to recognize raccoon eye as a symptom of head trauma and should have immediately brought her to a hospital.
What caused Garot’s initial injuries remains unknown, despite an investigation later carried out by the sheriff’s department, said Steven Hoffman, another one of Garot’s attorneys.
Due to the extent of her brain injury, Garot herself does not remember what happened.
“The deputies did an investigation and interviewed several people, but we never found out how she incurred the original injuries,” Hoffman said.
“She was shaking all the time,” one woman who had been incarcerated with Garot told investigators. She said Garot did not realize where she was, repeatedly tried to open doors and wondered where she had left her purse.
“She looked pretty beat up,” her face “black and blue all over,” another woman said.