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DeLuna v. Mower County

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

April 18, 2018

Geronimo DeLuna, and the State of Minnesota, Department of Human Services, Plaintiffs,
v.
Mower County; Terese Amazi, Mower County Sheriff; Chris Fletcher, Mower County Correctional Officer; and Officers John Doe 1 through John Doe 10, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          Paul A. Magnuson United States District Court Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. For the following reasons, the Motion is granted.

         BACKGROUND

         This lawsuit stems from injuries Plaintiff Geronimo DeLuna sustained after contracting Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (“MRSA”) at Mower County Jail in February 2015. DeLuna was incarcerated for violating the terms of his probation. (Aff. of Chris Fletcher (Docket No. 31) Ex. 7.) While incarcerated, he participated in the Sentence to Serve (“STS”) program, which permits eligible inmates to do community service work outside the jail. (Aff. of Jason Hiveley (Docket No. 32-7) (Davidson Dep.) at 6-7.)

         On February 10, a correctional officer gave DeLuna a pair of slip-on shoes that were too small for him-he received female size 10 but his shoe size is male size 10. (Aff. of Jason Hiveley (Docket No. 32-1) (DeLuna Dep.) at 16-17.) DeLuna told the officer that the shoes were too small, but the officer stated that he had no other pair to offer DeLuna. (Id. at 18-19.) He also wore socks with these shoes. (Id. at 19.)

         The following day, DeLuna participated in a STS project and wore his own shoes-not the slip-on shoes-because STS participants can wear personal clothes to STS projects. (Id. at 13-14, 23.) When he returned to the jail, a correctional officer noticed that his foot looked sore and immediately gave him a larger pair of shoes. (Id. at 16-17.) Nevertheless, he claims that wearing slip-on shoes that were too small for him caused soreness and blister on his left foot, because they rubbed and ripped his skin. (Id. at 15-16, 19.)

         Over the next two days, DeLuna's foot got progressively worse, and the County ultimately transferred him to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, where he was diagnosed with a MRSA infection on his left foot. (DeLuna Dep. at 41-42, 46-47, 56-57.) He underwent three surgeries and was hospitalized for ten days. (Id. at 47-48.) It appears that DeLuna has recovered, but he has a scar and claims that he suffers from periodic, sharp pain in his left foot. (Id. at 48.)

         DeLuna alleges that the County's negligent failure to provide him with proper footwear caused his injury and hospitalization.[1] (Compl. (Docket No. 1-1).) The County now moves for summary judgment.

         DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

          Summary judgment is proper if there are no disputed issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The Court must view the evidence and inferences that “may be reasonably drawn from the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Enter. Bank v. Magna Bank of Mo., 92 F.3d 743, 747 (8th Cir. 1996). The moving party bears the burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment may not rest on mere allegations or denials, but must set forth specific facts in the record showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986).

         B. Negligence

         To maintain a cause of action for negligence, DeLuna must establish: “(1) duty; (2) breach of that duty; (3) that the breach of duty be the proximate cause of [his] injury; and (4) that [he] did in fact suffer injury.” Johnson v. State, 553 N.W.2d 40, 49 (Minn. 1996). It is undisputed that the County has a duty to “provide suitable jail clothing, ” Minn. Stat. § 641.15, subd. 1, and to “protect inmates from foreseeable harm.” Thomsen v. Ross, 368 F.Supp.2d 961, 978 (D. Minn. 2005) (Rosenbaum, J.); see also Cooney v. Hooks, 535 N.W.2d 609, 612 (Minn. 1995) (dismissing inmate's negligence claim because there was no evidence that harm was foreseeable). The County argues that it did not breach that duty.

         DeLuna maintains that the County breached its duty of care because it was foreseeable that providing him with shoes that were too small would cause blistering on his foot. But the correct inquiry is whether giving an inmate shoes that do not fit for less than 24 hours would foreseeably cause a MRSA infection, because ...


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