UPDATE: The ACLU of Massachusetts, Prisoners' Legal Services, and law firm Goulston & Storrs filed a related case, Estate of Madelyn E. Linsenmeir v. City of Springfield, et al., on behalf of Madelyn’s family on March 5, 2020. According to this civil rights lawsuit, Madelyn Linsenmeir's pain, suffering, and death were caused by the Springfield Police Department and Hampden County Sheriff's Department's failure to provide medical treatment. Read the press release.
Together with Prisoners’ Legal Services (PLS) and cooperating attorney Luke Ryan, the ACLU of Massachusetts filed a lawsuit against the Springfield Police Department (SPD) and City of Springfield seeking information about the arrest and detention of Madelyn Linsenmeir, who later died in custody.
Linsenmeir’s death attracted national attention after her family drafted an obituary candidly describing her struggle with opioid use disorder. They are seeking public records from the SPD and City of Springfield to better understand what occurred in the time leading up to her hospitalization and death.
Madelyn Linsenmeir was arrested by SPD in late September 2018. The day before her arrest, she had texted her family that she was experiencing severe medical symptoms, including weight loss, chest pain, difficulty eating and sleeping, and swelling in her knee. Shortly after her arrest, she was allowed to call her mother. She was distraught on the call and reported that she was not receiving medical attention. As the phone conversation progressed, a police officer on the line refused to provide medical attention and even made a sarcastic comment after Linsenmeir’s mother reiterated that her daughter needed care.
Linsenmeir was later transferred to the custody of the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department. On October 4, 2018, she was rushed by ambulance to a hospital, where she was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. By the next day, she had been intubated and sedated. On October 7, she died.
The ACLU and PLS filed a public records request under the Massachusetts public records law on October 15, 2018. The public records lawsuit was filed in November 2018.
The requested information supports Linsenmeir’s family in their continued public advocacy for the humane treatment of opioid users and for increased access to medications and medical care for people suffering from opioid use disorder. Her obituary, written by her family and published in a Vermont newspaper one week after her death, was shared extensively on social media, including by Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, actress and advocate Alyssa Milano, and presidential advisor Ivanka Trump. The unexpected attention to the obituary resulted in Linsenmeir’s family being invited to tell her story in national and international media, as well as at public events attended by law enforcement leadership.
- A mother died in police custody of a treatable illness. Her family says she was denied proper care because she was a drug user | CNN
- Booking video shows Madelyn Linsenmeir telling police, ‘I might need to go to the hospital' | Springfield Republican
'I can't even breathe': Police video shows Madelyn Linsenmeir begging for water, help | Burlington Free Press
- After death of Vermont mother, family sues Springfield police for records | Boston Globe
- Family of woman with opioid addiction suing Springfield | Associated Press
- Family of Madelyn Linsenmeir sues Springfield police and city for records on her arrest and death | Boston.com
- How did Madelyn Linsenmeir die? Family who wrote family obituary is suing to find out. | Burlington Free Press
- Lawsuits seeks details on death of Vermont woman whose obit went viral | My Champlain Valley
- Family of Madelyn Linsenmeir, subject of viral obituary about addiction, sues Springfield police for public records | MassLive