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Sheeley v. City of Austin

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

February 6, 2015

Janet Sheeley and Peter Lilja-Sheeley, Plaintiffs,
City of Austin, Gold Cross Ambulance Service, et al., Defendants.

Celeste E. Culberth, Esq., Culberth & Lienemann LLP, St. Paul, MN, on behalf of Plaintiffs.

Meghan L. DesLauriers, Esq., Dorsey & Whitney LLP, Minneapolis, MN, on behalf of Defendant Gold Cross Ambulance Service.


ANN D. MONTGOMERY, District Judge.

This matter came before the undersigned United States District Court Judge on November 14, 2014 on Defendant Gold Cross Ambulance Service's ("Gold Cross") Motion for Summary Judgment [Docket No. 60]. On December 9, 2014, Defendants requested permission to file a supplemental brief in support of their motion. Def.'s Letter [Docket No. 71]. Gold Cross's request was granted and Plaintiffs were also permitted to file a supplemental brief. Order [Docket No. 72]. After review of the parties' initial and supplemental briefing, Gold Cross's motion is granted.


On November 16, 2011, Dustin Sheeley found his brother, Scott, lying on the floor in the basement of his home, appearing to be suffering from a seizure. Compl. [Docket No. 1] ¶¶ 13-15. Dustin called 911. Id . ¶ 15. During the emergency call, Scott regained consciousness and began acting erratically. Id . ¶ 16. Dustin, a United States Army medic, restrained Scott. Id . ¶ 17. Scott urinated on himself several times during his seizure. Id . ¶ 18. Dustin assisted Scott in removing his wet pants. Id . Before Dustin could help Scott put on dry pants, two police officers and two paramedics arrived. Id . Dustin released Scott who then swung the urine-soiled pants toward Dustin. Id . ¶ 19.

The police officers proceeded to physically restrain Scott, handcuff him and place him on his knees with his face in a chair. Id . ¶ 20. Scott was shaking and convulsing. Id . Dustin told the officers that Scott was having a seizure. Id . Additional officers arrived at the scene and one pulled out his taser, an electronic control device. Id . ¶ 22. A Gold Cross paramedic assisted the officer with the Taser by removing the top. Dustin again yelled "[d]on't Taser him, he is having a seizure." Id . ¶¶ 22 and 25. The taser was applied to Scott at least four times. Id . ¶ 26.

The Gold Cross paramedics then injected Scott with Haldol and Ativan, drugs known to have adverse respiratory effects. Id. at ¶ 29-30. Plaintiffs allege Scott then suffered respiratory and cardiac arrest. Id. at ¶ 33. In response, one of the police officers began administering CPR and one of the Gold Cross paramedics injected Scott with Nalozone in an effort to revive him. Id . ¶¶ 46-48. Other interventions were also performed. Id . ¶¶ 47-49. Scott regained a pulse and resumed breathing, but he was unconscious and unresponsive when removed from the home. Id . ¶¶ 50-51.

Scott filed this lawsuit in October 2012 and alleged six claims against four named Defendants. In December 2013, a little over two years after the incident, Scott died. Def.'s Mem. Supp. Summ. J. [Docket No. 62] 3. The cause of Scott's death was declared "undetermined." In March 2014, Janet Sheeley and Peter Lilja-Sheeley were approved by the Court as "co-personal representatives of the estate of Scott Raymond Sheeley." Order [Docket No. 52].

Gold Cross now moves for summary judgment. The only claim against Gold Cross is count six, which alleges the paramedics were negligent in treating Scott at the scene. Compl. ¶ 98-101. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege that the Gold Cross paramedics caused Scott to suffer cardiac arrest and hypoxic brain injury. Pls.' Mem. Opp. Summ. J. [Docket No. 66] 1-2.


A. Standard of Review

Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states a court shall grant summary judgment if no genuine issue of material fact exists and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. "While a party moving for summary judgment has the burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of fact for trial, a nonmoving party seeking to avoid having summary judgment entered against it may not rest on mere allegations or denials, but must set forth specific facts sufficient to raise a genuine material issue for trial." Thomas v. Runyon, 108 F.3d 957, 959 (8th Cir. 1997).

A fact dispute is "material, " and will thus preclude summary judgment, only if the dispute "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). And where the moving party has carried its burden, the nonmoving party must then "do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). The "very mission of the summary judgment procedure is to pierce the pleadings and to ...

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