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Martinson v. Leason

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

May 21, 2014

Jeffrey Lynn Martinson, Plaintiff,
v.
Jeanne Leason, et al., Defendants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Frederick J. Goetz, Goetz & Eckland P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota, for Plaintiff.

Jamie L. Guderian, Patti J. Skoglund, Jardine Logan & O'Brien, PLLP, Lake Elmo, Minnesota, Jay Stassen, Dakota County Attorney's Office, Hastings, Minnesota, for Defendants.

OPINION

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MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

RICHARD H. KYLE, United States District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

In January 2011, Plaintiff Jeffrey Lynn Martinson arrived at the Dakota County Jail (the " Jail" ) to serve a one-year sentence for a probation violation. He alleges in this action that three Jail nurses, Defendants Jeanne Leason, Margaret Erbstoesser, and Laura Thurmes, were negligent [1] and deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs, in violation of the United States Constitution, when they failed to treat an infection that progressed to sepsis [2] and ultimately required the amputation of nine of his fingers. Presently before the Court is Defendants' Amended Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 41). For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the Motion in part, dismiss the deliberate-indifference claim, and decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the negligence claim.

BACKGROUND

Viewed in the light most favorable to Martinson, the record reveals the following pertinent facts. Martinson was booked into the Jail on January 2, 2011. He filled out an intake questionnaire denying any ongoing medical problems save for depression and high blood pressure, which were being treated through the Veterans Administration. He continued to receive medications to treat these conditions from the Jail.

In mid to late February 2011, Martinson contracted what he believed to be a head cold, experiencing congestion, a scratchy throat, and a cough. According to Martinson and others housed with him (James Bronsing and Willis Werner), upper respiratory infections were common among inmates around that time.[3] Martinson mentioned

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his illness to a nurse at " med pass," during which nurses pass through the Jail with a cart to distribute medication. Although it is not unusual for inmates to mention health issues during med pass, typically they are told to write a " kite," a written request for medical service. Kites generally are sent electronically to the Jail's nursing staff, through a kiosk located in each Jail housing unit, although forms exist on which an inmate can send a handwritten one. Martinson was familiar with the electronic kiting system, as he had been incarcerated in the Jail in 2010 and had used it at that time.

On Friday, March 4, 2011, Martinson submitted an electronic kite providing: " [I] talked to [a] Nurse [at med pass] and was told to kite for Tylenol morning and night. Came down with bad head cold and is giving me headaches. Thanks. She gave me one [tonight]." A nurse responded to this kite the following Monday morning, stating she had " put [him] down for Tylenol X 7 days." Martinson then received Tylenol at the evening med pass for each of the next seven days.[4]

The record is somewhat unclear whether Martinson's symptoms improved. On one hand, he wrote letters to his girlfriend (Lisa Hartwig) stating that he was getting better. On March 6, for example, he wrote that he " ended up with a darn head cold last week" but the " cold is going away fast." On March 21, he wrote that the cold had gotten " better, then worse," and was " now starting to get better again." In addition, records from the hospitals at which Martinson received treatment on April 9 (discussed in more detail below) indicate that when he arrived, he complained of a cough lasting only a short period of time. (See Goetz Aff. Ex. 9 (" has had cough for [a] few days" ); id. Ex. 10 (" In jail with bloody cough x 4 days" ); id. Ex. 11 (" [P]atient noted that fever, chills, cough, sputum, hemoptysis and diarrhea all started Wed[nesday] and progressively worsened since." ).) Yet on the other hand, inmates who were housed or worked with Martinson aver that his symptoms did not improve. Martinson, too, testified in his deposition that his cold steadily worsened and he repeatedly told nurses at med pass that he was not getting better, though he does not recall who he told or when. And he claims that because he was not improving, he sent a second, handwritten kite sometime in mid-March, indicating that his headaches and sore throat had gotten worse and that his chest hurt " tremendously" when he coughed.[5]

In any event, at approximately 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 6, 2011, Martinson sent another electronic kite as follows: " Need some antibiotics for myself. I have a viral infection in my head, ears are plugged and so are sinuses. Giving me migraines. Thanks. Have had for 3 weeks now." Defendant Leason responded

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28 minutes later, after reviewing Martinson's chart, stating " [y]ou don't take antibiotics for viruses. You have a cold. We can give you Sudafed PE one tab 3 times a day for 7 days." She did not physically assess him at that time.

The following day, Thursday, April 7, Martinson reported to his job in the Jail kitchen but felt significantly more ill and left early. When he returned to his cell, he began having bouts of diarrhea in addition to his " severe" cough, which was producing bloody sputum. Nevertheless, he did not submit an additional kite and he made it to evening med pass to receive Sudafed from Leason (who was distributing medications). What happened during their encounter is in dispute. Leason testified in her deposition that Martinson was " in a good mood" and " came out smiling." She asked how he was feeling (as she had answered his kite the day prior) and he did not complain of a cough; in addition, his color was good and he was not short of breath. According to Leason, Martinson only mentioned that he felt pressure in his sinuses, and she told him the Sudafed would help. For his part, Martinson first testified in his deposition that he did not report the diarrhea or bloody cough to Leason, but later reversed course and testified that he had, in fact, complained of those symptoms. He also contends he specifically asked Leason to arrange for him to see a doctor, although his deposition testimony on that issue is somewhat opaque.[6] Regardless, Leason provided no further assessment or treatment, and Martinson returned to his cell.

Martinson remained in bed the following day, Friday, April 8, continuing to suffer diarrhea and a bloody, painful cough that " felt like [his] insides were going to come up." In addition, he vomited several times during the day. At 8:13 p.m., he sent another electronic kite: " Need drugs to get rid of what I have. Spent [the] afternoon throwing up 6 or 7 times and also the runs. Kited last Wednesday but haven't seen a doctor. I [work] in the kitchen. Also have a fever." Approximately 45 minutes later, Defendant Erbstoesser went to Martinson's cell to assess him. She took his temperature (101° ), blood pressure (114/73), and pulse (102), and wrote in his chart that he was " seen for nausea, vomiting and diarrhea." [7] Only the elevated temperature concerned Erbstoesser, as Martinson's other vital signs were with a " normal" range or very close to it. Given the rapid onset of vomiting and diarrhea, she believed he was suffering from gastroenteritis (stomach flu). Accordingly, she ordered him moved to an isolation cell in the Jail's intake area, both to prevent transmission to other inmates and because isolation cells have small windows from which Jail deputies check on inmates every thirty minutes while performing " rounds." The cells also contain an emergency button that can be pressed by inmates for medical problems. In addition, Erbstoesser directed the administration of Tylenol, put Martinson on ...


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