Laurie Jackson and Douglas Sorenson as Court Appointed Guardians on behalf of Michael Sorenson, Respondents,
Options Residential, Inc., Appellant.
County District Court File No. 27-CV-15-17699
R. McNeil, Elizabeth R. Gelderman, Stephen F. Buterin, Heley,
Duncan & Melander, PLLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for
Stephen O. Plunkett, Peter L. Gregory, Bassford Remele, P.A.,
Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellant)
B. Niesen, Bird, Jacobsen & Stevens, P.C., Rochester,
Minnesota (for amicus curiae Minnesota Association for
Considered and decided by Cleary, Chief Judge; Ross, Judge;
and Rodenberg, Judge.
Statutes section 253B.23, subdivision 4 (2016), provides
good-faith immunity only to causes of action that arise under
the Minnesota Commitment and Treatment Act.
resident at an adult foster-care facility operated by Options
Residential, Inc., poured a pot of boiling water on another
resident, Michael Sorenson, whose guardians then sued Options
on his behalf, claiming negligence. The district court denied
summary judgment to Options, rejecting its immunity defense
under the Minnesota Commitment and Treatment Act. We hold
that the statute's immunity protection against
"civil or criminal liability under [the act]"
refers to causes of action that are created by or are based
on the act. Because Sorenson does not assert any claim so
arising from the act, we affirm.
Sorenson is an adult confined to a wheelchair because of a
traumatic brain injury he suffered in a 1973 motorcycle
accident. Sorenson relies on assistance for his basic needs,
including meal preparation and personal hygiene. In 2011
Sorenson's siblings (who are also his court-appointed
guardians) placed him in a Bloomington adult residential
foster-care facility run by Options Residential, Inc. Options
provides housing and care to individuals with brain injuries,
mental health disorders, and substance abuse issues. Options
developed a care plan to provide "supervision for
[Sorenson] 24 hours a day, 7 days a week" and to keep
Sorenson "within sight and sound at all times."
schizophrenic woman, moved into the residence a month later.
M.R. was in the process of being provisionally discharged
from civil commitment. She has a history of aggressive
conduct, including starting fires and throwing hot liquids on
rose between Sorenson and M.R. in May 2013. On May 26,
Sorenson teased M.R. about her body odor. M.R. reacted by
breaking Sorenson's eyeglasses and spraying Lysol in his
eyes. Options staff called the police, who recommended that
Options change the living arrangements. Sorenson again teased
M.R. about her hygiene on May 30. M.R. responded later that
day, slapping Sorenson several times and injuring his face.
Options staff again called the police, and paramedics took
M.R. to the hospital for a 72hour emergency hold. When the
hold expired, M.R. returned to the residence.
10, only one staff member was on duty in the residence caring
for Sorenson, M.R., and another resident, while another staff
member took the fourth resident on an errand. The attending
staff member prepared a pizza for Sorenson, who sat in the
living room in his wheelchair, and M.R. paced in and out of
the kitchen. The third resident was also making dinner but
had left the kitchen and a pot of boiling water on the stove.
The staff member left the kitchen and went to the office.
This left M.R. and Sorenson without supervision. That's
when M.R. took the pot of hot water from the stove and poured
it on Sorenson. Sorenson screamed. The staff member returned
and saw steam rising from Sorenson's body. The staff
member moved M.R. away from Sorenson, administered first aid,
and called police. Paramedics took Sorenson to the hospital
where he was ...