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Anderson v. City of Minneapolis

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

March 30, 2018

William Anderson, As Trustee for the Next-of-Kin of Jacob William Anderson (deceased) Plaintiff,
v.
City of Minneapolis; County of Hennepin; Hennepin Healthcare System, Inc.; Dr. Brian Mahoney, M.D., as then-Medical Director of HCMC Ambulance Service; Shana D. York, Anthony J. Buda, Raul A. Ramos, and John Doe individuals to be determined, Individual Fire Department Personnel in Their Individual Capacities; Daniel F. Shively and John Doe individuals to be determined, Individual HCMC Ambulance Services Personnel in Their Individual Capacities; Mitchel Morey, M.D., Individual Medical Examiner's Personnel, in His Individual Capacity; Daniel J. Tyra, Shannon L. Miller, Dustin L. Anderson, Scott T. Sutherland, D. Blaurat, Emily Dunphy, Christopher Karakostas, Matthew George, Joseph McGinness, Calvin Pham, Arlene M. Johnson, Matthew T. Ryan, and John Doe individuals to be determined, Individual Police Officers in Their Individual Capacities, Defendants.

          Robert R. Hopper, Robert R. Hopper & Associates, for Plaintiff.

          Ivan M. Ludmer, Minneapolis City Attorney's Office, for Defendants City of Minneapolis; Individual Fire Department Personnel in Their Individual Capacities; Individual Police Officers in Their Individual Capacities: Daniel J. Tyra, Shannon L. Miller, Dustin L. Anderson, Scott T. Sutherland, D. Blaurat, Emily Dunphy, Christopher Karakostas, and Arlene M. Johnson.

          Tracey N. Fussy, Minneapolis City Attorney's Office, for Defendant City of Minneapolis.

          Michael B. Miller, Hennepin County Attorney's Office, for Defendants County of Hennepin; Hennepin Healthcare System, Inc.; Daniel F. Shively, Individual HCMC Ambulance Services Personnel in His Individual Capacity; Mitchel Morey, M.D., Individual Medical Examiner's Personnel, in His Individual Capacity; and Dr. Brian Mahoney, M.D., as then-Medical Director of HCMC Ambulance Service.

          Ann E. Walther and Erik Bal, Rice, Michels & Walther, LLP, For Individual Police Officers in Their Individual Capacities Matthew George, Joseph McGinness, Calvin Pham, and Matthew T. Ryan.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SUSAN RICHARD NELSON, United States District Judge

         This is a very tragic case. Jacob Anderson, 19 years old at the time and a student at the University of Minnesota, was found in the frigid early morning hours of December 15, 2013, lying face down, slumped over a metal rail in a remote location in Minneapolis. The first responders declared him dead on the scene. The autopsy report states that the cause of death was hypothermia. The Plaintiff, Mr. Anderson's father and trustee for Jacob's next-of-kin, brings this lawsuit against a number of authorities and first responders, arguing that their actions in failing to take immediate measures to provide medical treatment to his son for hypothermia, including warming him, in hope that he was still alive, is actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         This matter is before the Court on: (1) a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint filed by Defendants County of Hennepin (“the County”), Hennepin Healthcare System, Inc. (“HHS”), Daniel Shively, Dr. Mitchel Morey, and Dr. Brian Mahoney (collectively, “County Defendants”) (Cty. Defs.' Mot. [Doc. No. 96])[1]; (2) a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint filed by Defendants City of Minneapolis (“the City”), Shana D. York, Anthony J. Buda, Raul A. Ramos, Daniel J. Tyra, Shannon L. Miller, Dustin L. Anderson, Scott T. Sutherland, D. Blaurat, Emily Dunphy, Christopher Karakostas, and Arlene M. Johnson (collectively, “City Defendants”) (City Defs.' Mot. [Doc. No. 103]); and (3) identical Motions to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint filed by Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (“MPRB”) Defendants Joseph McGinness and Calvin Pham [Doc. No. 108], and Mathew Ryan and Mathew George [Doc. No. 123]. Although this Court has great sympathy for Jacob's family, for the reasons set forth below and as detailed herein, these motions must be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

          A. Factual Background

         This Court assumes-as it must when evaluating a facial attack to jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and when ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6)-that all facts pleaded in the complaint are true. See Aten v. Scottsdale Ins. Co., 511 F.3d 818, 820 (8th Cir. 2008); Branson Label, Inc. v. City of Branson, 793 F.3d 910, 914 (8th Cir. 2015); see also infra, Sections II.A.1 and II.B.1.

         In the early morning hours of December 15, 2013, a passerby found then 19-year-old Jacob Anderson (“Anderson”) lying face down, slumped over a metal rail in a remote location near a bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Second Am. Compl. [Doc. No. 86] at 11, ¶ 35.)[2] It was a very cold morning, with some reports indicating a wind chill temperature of -15° Fahrenheit. (Id. at 11, ¶ 34.) The circumstances of how Anderson arrived at this location are unknown. (Id. at 11, ¶ 37.) The night before, on December 14, he attended an “ugly sweater party” with his friends, fellow University of Minnesota students. (Id. at 10, ¶ 32.) Although Anderson was seen leaving the party at around 11:15 p.m., he did not return to his University of Minnesota dormitory that night. (Id. at 10-11, ¶¶ 32-33.)

         After spotting Anderson, the passerby called 911. (Id. at 11, ¶ 38.) The 911 dispatcher sent to the scene the Minneapolis Fire Department (“MFD”), Hennepin County Medical Center (“HCMC”) Ambulance Services/Emergency Medical Services, and the Minneapolis Police Department (“MPD”). (Id.) What followed was a succession of responses by emergency personnel from the County, the City, and the MPRB that form the basis of this suit.

         MFD was the first to arrive on the scene at 8:54 a.m. (Id. at 16, ¶ 18.) Responders from the MFD included Defendants York, Buda, and Ramos (collectively, “Individual MFD Defendants”). (Id.) At least some of the Individual MFD Defendants were certified Emergency Medical Technicians who provide prehospital emergency medical care and transportation for patients who access emergency medical services. (Id. at 17, ¶ 19 & n. 6.) According to a witness on the scene, the Individual MFD Defendants assessed Anderson by conducting “a mere 30 second pulse check at his wrist, which was frostbitten and cold to the touch.” (Id. at 17, ¶ 20.) After this assessment, MFD pronounced Anderson “dead on arrival.” (Id.) The time was 8:57:24 a.m.-only three and a half minutes after MFD arrived on the scene. (Id. at 17, ¶ 21.)

         The incident report that MFD prepared provides additional details. The report indicates that no “BLS, ” or basic life support, was provided. (Id. at 17, ¶ 24.) The report also states that Anderson “had no pulse and no breathing and was frozen indicating obvious death.” (Id. at 17, ¶ 23.) It also indicates that the ambulance was “cancelled” at 8:57:24 a.m., and that police were called “per protocol.” (Id. at 17, ¶¶ 22-23.)

         At 8:56 a.m., about a minute and a half before MFD declared Anderson as “dead on arrival” and cancelled ambulance services, an HCMC ambulance unit arrived on the scene.[3](Id. ¶¶ 47, 53.) The HCMC responders included Defendant Shively and Anthony A. Van Beusekom (collectively “Individual HCMC Defendants”).[4] (Id. ¶ 48.) When they arrived, Shively and Van Beusekom walked from the ambulance to Anderson's location and back to the ambulance again, but did not medically examine or assess Anderson or provide him with medical treatment. (Id. ¶ 52.) These Defendants “did not conduct their own assessment of [Anderson's] condition, or check for vital signs or core body temperature, ” or check for “pulse, breath, or airway ice formation.” (Id. ¶ 54.) The Individual HCMC Defendants remained on the scene for approximately two minutes. (Id. ¶ 51.) After the incident, Shively prepared a report, which states that the HCMC ambulance had been “cancelled by other units on the scene.” (Id. ¶ 55.) The report further states that there was a “frozen body near [the] river.” (Id.) The Individual HCMC Defendants are overseen by the HCMC ambulance service Medical Director, who at that time was Defendant Mahoney. (Id. ¶ 56.)

         The last of the emergency responders to arrive were from the MPD and MPRB. (Id. ¶ 93.) These responders, who arrived at 8:57 a.m., included Defendants Tyra, Miller, Anderson, Sutherland, Blaurat, Dunphy, Karakostas, and Johnson (collectively “Individual MPD Defendants”), as well as MPRB Defendants George, McGinness, Pham, and Ryan.[5](Id. ¶ 95.) Shortly after these Defendants arrived, MFD “relinquished control of the scene” and left. (Id. ¶ 97.) MPD then called for a “Car 701, ” which must be requested to the scene when the incident involves a suspicious death or homicide. (Id. ¶ 98.) About an hour and a half later, at 10:30 a.m., MPD also notified the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office (“Medical Examiner's Office”) of Anderson's death. (Id. ¶ 102.)

         Upon being notified, the Medical Examiner's Office sent two death investigators to the scene. (Id. ¶ 109.) Once on the scene, these investigators called the Assistant Medical Examiner, Defendant Morey, to discuss the case. (Id. ¶ 112.) Morey is a medical doctor and a board-certified forensic pathologist. (Id.) On this call, Morey determined that a medical doctor's visit to the scene was not necessary, and the Medical Examiner's Office took no further action while the investigators were on the scene. (Id. ¶ 113.)

         Eventually, the Medical Examiner's Office performed an autopsy on Anderson's body. (Id. ¶ 121.) The autopsy report, which was signed by Morey, indicates that Anderson's immediate cause of death was hypothermia. (Id.) The date and time of death are listed as December 15, 2013, 8:48 a.m. (Id.)

         On the basis of the aforementioned facts, the present action was initiated.

         B. Procedural Background

         1. Plaintiff's Complaints

         On December 8, 2016, a few days short of the three-year anniversary of Anderson's death, Anderson's parents, William Anderson (“William”) and Kristi Anderson (“Kristi”), [6]filed the First Complaint against the various entities and individuals who responded to Anderson's death. (See First Compl. [Doc. No. 1] ¶¶ 4-30.) In addition to listing William and Kristi as plaintiffs in their individual capacities, the First Complaint also listed William in his capacity as personal representative of Anderson's estate. (Id. ¶¶ 1-3.) Though not relevant here, that First Complaint alleged one count under federal law and twelve counts under state law. (Id. ¶¶ 92-251.)

         On March 9, 2017, by then more than three years and two months after Anderson's death, William was appointed trustee for the next-of-kin of Anderson. (Second Am. Compl. at 3, ¶ 1.) On March 24, 2017, the First Amended Complaint was filed, now listing as sole plaintiff William in his capacity as trustee. (See First Am. Compl. [Doc. No. 43] ¶ 1.) On April 19, 2017, William filed a Second Amended Complaint, again in his capacity as trustee. (See Second Am. Compl.) That is now the operative pleading in this case, and it is in his capacity as trustee for Anderson's next-of-kin that William is referred to as “Plaintiff” throughout this Order.

         The Second Amended Complaint alleges six counts under federal and state law. As the underlying basis for all claims is Defendants' alleged failure to recognize Anderson as a severe hypothermia victim and to render the medical help that Plaintiff alleges might have saved Anderson's life. The Second Amended Complaint generally alleges that Defendants “summarily pronounced [Anderson] dead, in complete and total contravention of their medical knowledge and their duties to provide appropriate medical assessment and response.” (Id. ¶ 132.) Plaintiff alleges that this constitutes a failure to implement Defendants' “legally obligated standard operating procedures, and in particular, their respective department protocols for treating hypothermia victims.” (Id.)

         Counts I through IV allege violations under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“§ 1983”). (See Id. ¶¶ 135-234.) Count I alleges a violation of Due Process under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Id. ¶ 135-64.) This Count alleges that the Individual MFD, HCMC, MPD and MPRB Defendants, as well as Morey and Mahoney, were deliberately indifferent to Anderson's life-threatening medical needs, which caused the deprivation of Anderson's constitutional rights to life, liberty, and personal security under the Fourteenth Amendment. (See id.) Count II, asserted against these same Defendants, alleges “special relationship” violations under the Fourteenth Amendment. (See Id. ¶¶ 165-77.) Plaintiff claims that “a special custodial relationship arose and attached when Jake Anderson was in [these Defendants'] custody and unable to seek other aid, ” and that such “special relationship created an affirmative duty to protect [Anderson's] life and provide him with care.” (Id. ¶ 167.)

         Count III is asserted against the City, the County, and Mahoney, and alleges deliberately indifferent training and supervision. (See Id. ¶¶ 178-225.) Plaintiff claims that the City “has a policy, custom, practice and pattern of inadequate training and supervision” of the emergency response personnel employed by MFD and MPD. (Id. ¶ 183.) Plaintiff claims that the County also has a policy, custom, pattern, and practice of inadequate training and supervision of its emergency response personnel. (Id. ¶ 197.) Count III also makes claims against Mahoney, alleging that HCMC's “improper handling” of Anderson was the result of his improper training and negligent supervision of the Individual HCMC Defendants as then-Medical Director. (Id. ¶ 214.)

         Count IV alleges municipal liability for negligent performance of duty by a state actor and is asserted against the Individual MFD, HCMC, MPD and MPRB Defendants as well as Morey. (See Id. ¶¶ 226-34.) This Count alleges that these Defendants “failed to properly conduct their duties when they erroneously and haphazardly pronounced [Anderson] dead after he was discovered cold in a cold environment with known symptoms of survivable hypothermia, without any reasonable medical support for their untimely declaration of [Anderson's] death.” (Id. ¶ 232.)

         Counts V and VI allege claims under state law against all Defendants. Count V asserts gross negligence, alleging that Defendants should have known that Anderson was the victim of hypothermia based on their extensive medical training, and that their failure to provide Anderson with medical treatment contravened established medical standards for treating survivable hypothermia. (Id. ¶¶ 238-40.) Finally, Count VI alleges negligent undertaking, claiming that a special duty arose when Defendants undertook to render emergency medical services to Anderson, and that Defendants breached this special duty by failing to render any such emergency medical assistance. (Id. ¶¶ 255-57.)

         2. Defendants' Motions to Dismiss

         On May 16, 2017, the County Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a claim. The County Defendants argue that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the entire case because Plaintiff failed to comply with the requirements of Minnesota's wrongful death statute, Minn. Stat. § 573.02, which they argue governs all of his claims. (See Cty. Defs.' Mem. [Doc. No. 98] at 9-13.) According to the County Defendants, that statute required Plaintiff to be appointed trustee within three years of Anderson's death. (Id.) Thus, because Plaintiff failed to comply with that requirement, they argue that he lacks standing to sue. (Id.) In the alternative, the County Defendants also move to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), arguing that Plaintiff has failed to properly plead his claims, and that, in any event, they are entitled to immunity. (See Id. at 15-31.)

         On May 17, 2017, the City Defendants also filed a Motion to Dismiss under Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Although the City Defendants frame their arguments slightly differently, like the County Defendants, they argue that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because Plaintiff “failed to bring the lawsuit within three years of Anderson's death, a condition precedent under Minnesota's wrongful death statute, Minn. Stat. § 573.02.” (See City Defs.' Mem. [Doc. No. 105] at 1-2, 7-11.) In the alternative, the City Defendants also argue that Plaintiff's claims must be dismissed under Rule 12(b)(6) because the Second Amended Complaint “fail[s] to assert sufficient facts to establish negligence or a constitutional deprivation, ” (id. at 2, 12-23), and because Plaintiff's claims are barred by various doctrines of immunity, (see Id. at 12-15).

         On May 17, 2017, Defendants McGinness and Pham also moved to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint under Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). In a footnote, McGinness and Pham indicated that Defendants George and Ryan would join their Motion if Plaintiff timely served George and Ryan. (McGinness & Pham Mem. at 2 n.2.) On June 21, 2017, Defendants George and Ryan filed a Motion to Dismiss, and a Memorandum in Support, that is identical to the one filed by McGinness and Pham. (Compare McGinness & Pham Mem., with George & Ryan Mem.) Accordingly, the Court will address these four Defendants' arguments collectively-referring to Defendants as the MPRB Defendants- but will only cite to McGinness and Ryan's briefing.

         Like the County and City Defendants, the MPRB Defendants argue that this Court should dismiss the Second Amended Complaint because “Plaintiff failed to secure appointment as a wrongful death trustee within the three-year statute of limitations period, ” and as such lacks standing to assert any of the claims in this action. (McGinness & Pham Mem. at 7.) And again like the City and County Defendants, the MPRB Defendants argue that the Second Amended Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and that even if it did, immunity bars the claims. (See Id. at 7-15.)

         II. DISCUSSION

         Defendants' Rule 12(b)(1) Motions to Dismiss implicate subject matter jurisdiction, so this Court will consider them first. See Frey v. City of Herculaneum, 44 F.3d 667, 670 (8th Cir. 1995) (“We may not consider the parties' arguments as to whether the complaint states a cause of action until we have determined whether the plaintiffs have standing to recover under section 1983.”); ABF Freight Sys., Inc. v. Int'l Bhd. of Teamsters, 645 F.3d 954, 958 (8th Cir. 2011) (“Federal jurisdiction is limited by Article III of the Constitution to cases or controversies; if a plaintiff lacks standing to sue, the district court has no subject-matter jurisdiction.”).

         A. Rule 12(b)(1) Motions

         1. Standard of Review

          Federal courts deciding a Rule 12(b)(1) motion must distinguish between a “facial attack” and a “factual attack” to jurisdiction. Branson, 793 F.3d at 914. Here, the parties bring a facial attack to jurisdiction, so “the court restricts itself to the face of the pleadings and the non-moving party receives the same protections as it would defending against a motion brought under Rule 12(b)(6).” Id. (quoting Osborn , 918 F.2d at 729 n. 6). On a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), this Court “accept[s] as true the non-moving party's factual allegations and grant[s] the non-moving party all reasonable inferences from the pleadings.” Noble Sys. Corp. v. Alorica Cent., LLC, 543 F.3d 978, 981 (8th Cir. 2008).

         Because Plaintiff's federal and state law claims implicate different issues, the Court will address them separately.

         2. Jurisdiction over § 1983 Claims

          Defendants argue that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's § 1983 claims because he failed to comply with the requirements set forth in Minnesota's survival and wrongful death statutes, Minn. Stat. §§ 573.01-.02. (See Cty. Defs.' Mem. at 9-13; City Defs.' Mem. at 7-11; McGinness & Pham Mem. at 5-7.)[7] Specifically, Defendants contend that those statutes “govern” even his § 1983 claims and required him to bring this action in his capacity as trustee within three years of Anderson's death. (See City Defs.' Mem. at 7-11.) Because he failed to do so, Defendants argue, he lacks standing to sue. (Id.) In essence, ...


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