Sandra Quinones, six months pregnant, was at a jail in Orange County, California, when her water broke in March 2016, according to court records.

She pushed the call button in her cell for two hours without a response, and when county employees finally did take her to a hospital, they stopped at a Starbucks along the way, her lawyer said in a federal lawsuit. She lost the pregnancy, according to court records.

On Tuesday, the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in a closed session to pay Quinones $480,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuit she had filed in federal court that claimed denial of medical care, negligent treatment and other violations.

An Orange County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson declined to comment about the lawsuit or the settlement. Phone and email messages left for the board chair and a lawyer representing the county were not immediately returned Sunday.

When she went into labor, Quinones was in the middle of serving 70 days in jail after she was arrested in Buena Park for possession of a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance for sales, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.

The county had requested that the federal lawsuit be thrown out, arguing that the statute of limitations had passed. A district court judge agreed, and the case was dismissed in October 2020, but an appeals court reversed that decision in December and sent the case back to the lower court.


A lawyer for Quinones, Richard P. Herman, wrote in the lawsuit, which was filed in April 2020 and later amended, that the unnamed county employees had decided not to call an ambulance.

Instead, he said, they took Quinones, then 28, to the hospital on a “nonemergency basis.” While the employees stopped at a Starbucks, Quinones was in the back of a van, bleeding and in labor, the lawsuit said. The suit did not say how long the stop at the Starbucks lasted.

It was not clear from court records how Quinones lost her pregnancy and Herman did not immediately respond to messages Sunday.

The lawsuit said that the policies used to train county employees to handle medical care of inmates, especially pregnant inmates, were inadequate. It also said that Quinones suffers from “severe and extreme” post-traumatic stress disorder and depression as a result of the episode.

Quinones, described in court documents as an Orange County resident, has been homeless since the episode, alternating between living on the streets and in county custody, according to the lawsuit.

Her “homelessness stems from her inability to function and take care of her affairs after the incident as a result of the severe emotional harm in combination with her mental impairments,” Herman said in the lawsuit.