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Laganiere v. County of Olmsted

United States District Court, Eighth Circuit

December 12, 2013

PATRICK LAGANIERE, Trustee for the heirs and next of kin of Cody Patrick Laganiere, decedent, Plaintiff,
v.
THE COUNTY OF OLMSTED; OLMSTED COUNTY ADULT DETENTION CENTER; DR. MOLELLA; MARY MAUSETH; and STACY SINNER, Defendants.

Michael A. Bryant, BRADSHAW & BRYANT PLLC, for plaintiff.

Gregory J. Griffiths and Hilary R. Stonelake-Curtis, DUNLAP & SEEGER, P.A., for defendants County of Olmsted, Olmsted County Adult Detention Center, Mary Mauseth, and Stacy Sinner.

ORDER

PATRICK J. SCHILTZ, District Judge.

Cody Laganiere ("Laganiere") died while in custody at the Olmsted County Adult Detention Center ("ADC") on September 24, 2010. Laganiere's father, plaintiff Patrick Laganiere, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the County of Olmsted ("County"), the ADC, and County employees Stacy Sinner and Mary Mauseth, alleging that they failed to provide Laganiere with adequate medical care.[1]

This matter is before the Court on defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion is granted.

I. BACKGROUND

At the outset, the Court must acknowledge that the record before it is unusually sparse. Typically a summary-judgment motion is decided on a full record, developed by the parties through discovery. But plaintiff's counsel inexplicably did not take any discovery from any defendant - despite the fact that plaintiff bears the burden of proof and has no personal knowledge of the events that led to his son's death. Defendants, too, chose to take no discovery, but their decision was at least understandable, given that defendants do not bear the burden of proof and do have personal knowledge of the events of September 24, 2010. As a result of the parties' failure to engage in discovery, the record before the Court consists of little more than a handful of short affidavits. Those affidavits establish the following:

Defendant Stacy Sinner is the director of detention services for the County and supervises the ADC. Sinner Aff. ¶ 1. Defendant Mary Mauseth is a detention deputy who was assigned to the housing unit in which Laganiere was incarcerated on September 24, 2010. Mauseth Aff. ¶¶ 1-3. Among other things, detention deputies are required to conduct well-being checks on inmates at least every 30 minutes. Mauseth Aff. ¶ 2. Under ADC policy, a staff member must "[p]ersonally observe each detainee every thirty (30) minutes" and "[b]e satisfied that each detainee seems to be behaving or sleeping normally...." Sinner Aff. ¶ 4 & Ex. A. Each wellbeing check must be logged, and any abnormal situation must be noted. Sinner Aff. Ex. A.

About a week before his death, Laganiere was prescribed methadone. Sinner Aff. Ex. C [ECF 49-1 at 45]. Justan Hoffman, Laganiere's cellmate at the ADC, noticed that after Laganiere took methadone he would slur and drool and could barely walk. Hoffman Aff. ¶ 3.[2] According to Hoffman, Laganiere "was totally out of it and his behavioral changes were totally noticeable to everyone around him." Hoffman Aff. ¶ 3. Hoffman also says that he informed "Defendants" of Laganiere's behavioral changes by "ask[ing] the jail guards to check on him." Hoffman Aff. ¶ 4. Hoffman does not identify the guard or guards to whom he spoke.

On September 24, Mauseth began her morning shift at 6:00 a.m. Sinner Aff. ¶ 9. Mauseth conducted a head count at 6:50 a.m. Mauseth Aff. ¶ 3. Laganiere was not awake during that head count; instead, Mauseth observed him lying on his back in his bunk, snoring. Mauseth Aff. ¶ 3. At 7:10 a.m., Mauseth noticed that Laganiere had not come out of his cell for breakfast or to take his morning medication. Mauseth Aff. ¶ 4. Mauseth asked Laganiere if he wanted either breakfast or his medication, and he replied, "no, not today." Mauseth Aff. ¶ 4. Mauseth continued to perform well-being checks on Laganiere and the other prisoners, and she saw nothing unusual. Mauseth Aff. ¶ 5. During a well-being check conducted at 10:10 a.m., she heard Laganiere snoring. Mauseth Aff. ¶ 6. At about 10:35 a.m., Mauseth found Laganiere unresponsive in his cell. Mauseth Aff. ¶¶ 6-7. Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful, and Laganiere was declared dead. Mauseth Aff. ¶ 7. Laganiere's death certificate reports that the immediate cause of his death was methadone toxicity and that other contributing conditions included acute bronchial pneumonia. Bryant Aff. Ex. A.

Relying entirely on Hoffman's affidavit, plaintiff disputes at least part of Mauseth's account of her activities on the morning of September 24. Hoffman's affidavit, however, is internally contradictory and difficult to understand. He asserts that he "did not observe half hour checks" on Laganiere or any other inmate on September 24, but he also asserts that "jail guards may have walked around our cells but they did not do any verbal checks" and that "Mauseth was performing checks on inmates including myself" on September 24.[3] Hoffman Aff. ¶¶ 4-5. Hoffman also recalls that Laganiere was asleep and snoring on the morning of September 24, but says that Laganiere had stopped snoring about 45 minutes before Mauseth checked on him. Hoffman Aff. ¶ 6.

The ADC policy on well-being checks does not require verbal checks, as Hoffman (or the attorney who drafted the affidavit for him) seems to believe. Instead, as described above, the ADC policy merely requires that a staff member "[p]ersonally observe" inmates every 30 minutes and "[b]e satisfied that each detainee seems to be behaving or sleeping normally...." Sinner Aff. Ex. A (emphasis added). Thus, Hoffman's affidavit - which acknowledges that "jail guards may have walked around our cells" - does not contradict Mauseth's assertion that she performed periodic well-being checks.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Standard of Review


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