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Missoula County Must Pay $565K for Inmate Death


MISSOULA - A jury rules Missoula County must pay $565,500 in damages to the family of a woman who died in the detention center in 2009.

The ruling was made in Missoula County District Court last Friday stating county officials were 65% responsible for the death of 31-year-old Heather Holly Wasson. Wasson died of an alcohol withdrawal seizure after she was jailed on a probation violation.

The case began in 2011 after the family claimed officers failed to properly treat her for withdrawal symptoms. The county's defense argued the woman never asked for help when she got to the detention center, but attorneys for Wasson showed a cell room video of her saying she was "going to puke and freezing."

"We were happy with the verdict. We thought the jury listened to the evidence and Missoula County knew Heather had a high-risk for withdrawal and they violated their own policies and procedures," said Chris Edwards with Edwards Trickle and Culver, the firm representing Wasson.

The county does not plan to appeal. The county awarded damages of $780,000 for the wrongful death and $90,000 for the pain and suffering endured before dying.

The jury found Wasson was 35% responsible for her death, leaving the county liable for $565,500 in damages.