United States District Court, D. Minnesota
DAWN BRENNER and KATHY BRENNER, as co-trustees for the heirs and next of kin of Dylan Brenner, Plaintiffs,
DANIELLE SUE ASFELD, WES GRAVES, AMANDA NOWELL, CHRISTINA LEONARD, JOHN DOES 1-2, in their individual capacities, SHERBURNE COUNTY, and MEND CORRECTIONAL CARE, PLLC, Defendants.
ORDER ON MOTION TO DISMISS AND MOTION TO
E. Brasel United States District Judge
Brenner died by suicide in 2017 while in custody at the
Sherburne County Jail. The trustees of Brenner's estate
assert federal and state claims against Sherburne County,
MEnD Correctional Care, PLLC, and their employees. Defendants
Wes Graves and Sherburne County brought a motion to dismiss,
arguing that the complaint fails to plead facts to show
specific knowledge that Brenner was a suicide risk. In
response, Plaintiffs seek leave to file a second amended
complaint to bolster their existing claims and to add new
defendants and claims. For the reasons that follow, the Court
grants the motion to amend in part and denies the motion to
dismiss at moot.
First Amended Complaint alleges the following
Brenner's suicide occurred in 2017, Brenner was first
incarcerated at the Sherburne County Jail in July and August
2016. During his 2016 stay, MEnD Correctional Care, PLLC
provided him with medical care. [ECF No. 6 (“Am.
Compl.”) ¶¶ 19-20.] Both Sherburne County and
MEnD records show that Brenner was on suicide watch during
the entirety of his 2016 stay. (Id. ¶ 22.)
Brenner suffered from severe physical and mental health
issues-including traumatic brain injury, bipolar disorder,
and PTSD-following three combat tours of duty in Iraq.
(Id. ¶¶ 14-15, 18.) Sherburne County and
MEnD records document Brenner's mental health history and
prescribed medications. (Id. ¶ 21.)
October 6, 2017, following a guilty verdict in the same
criminal matter that led to his 2016 incarceration, Brenner
was taken into custody and again booked into the Sherburne
County Jail. (Id. ¶ 24.) The seriousness of the
guilty verdict combined with Brenner's mental health
history, including known suicidality at Sherburne County,
placed him at high risk for suicide. (Id. ¶
25.) Despite knowing this risk, Defendants failed to conduct
adequate mental-health screenings, failed to assess the risk
properly, and placed Brenner in the general population.
(Id. ¶¶ 26-27.)
Amended Complaint contains specific allegations about each
defendant. As to Defendant and MEnD nurse Christina Leonard,
who treated Brenner on the evening of October 6, Plaintiffs
assert that Leonard diagnosed Brenner with drug withdrawal,
and that she knew doctors had prescribed Brenner medical
marijuana for his PTSD and suicidal thoughts. (Id.
¶¶ 30-31.) Plaintiffs assert that Leonard failed to
ensure that MEnD and Sherburne County properly screened or
monitored Brenner, and thus Sherburne County placed him in
the general population, where he received 30-minute
well-being checks rather than closer medical monitoring.
(Id. ¶¶ 32-33.)
Defendant and MEnD nurse Danielle Sue Asfeld, who met with
Brenner's mother Kathy Brenner on the morning of October
7, Plaintiffs assert that Kathy Brenner gave Asfield several
of Brenner's medications, including medical cannabis,
venlafaxine HCL, lamotrigine, cyproheptadine, lurasidone, and
trazodone. (Id. ¶ 34.) Asfeld knew Brenner had
current and valid prescriptions for the various medications,
and that the medications were for treatment of serious mental
health conditions, including PTSD, depression, anxiety, and
bipolar disorder. (Id. ¶¶ 36-42.) Asfeld
had access to Brenner's medical records, knew of his
history of suicidal ideations, knew he was suffering from
drug withdrawal, and knew he had not received his medications
since his incarceration. (Id. ¶ 25.) Despite
this knowledge, Asfeld did not provide him with his
medication, assess the status of his mental health condition,
or inventory or chart the prescriptions. (Id.
¶¶ 43-46.) Plaintiffs assert that as a result,
Brenner received 30-minute well-being checks rather than more
frequent monitoring. (Id. ¶ 47.)
Defendant and MEnD nurse Amanda Nowell, who inventoried
Brenner's medications, Plaintiffs assert she similarly
had access to Brenner's file, and knew of his health
history and medications, but did not provide him any
medicine, assess his mental health status, or chart his
prescriptions. (Id. ¶¶ 50-56.) As a
result, Plaintiffs assert, Brenner received 30-minute
well-being checks rather than more frequent monitoring.
(Id. ¶ 57.)
Sherburne County, Plaintiffs allege that Sherburne County
staff, including corrections officer Wes Graves, failed to
conduct the 30-minute well-being checks properly, missing
multiple checks in violation of implemented policies and
procedures. (Id. ¶¶ 7, 58-59.) For
example, Graves did not conduct a well-being check at 1:59
p.m., and the last proper observation of Brenner occurred no
later than 1:05 p.m. (Id. ¶¶ 60-61.)
Brenner was found unresponsive at 2:19 p.m., and his time of
death was 2:23 p.m. (Id. ¶¶ 62-63.)
Plaintiffs assert that had Brenner received proper medical
attention, closer monitoring, and his medications, he would
likely not have died of suicide. (Id. ¶¶
reviewing Graves' and Sherburne County's answer and
motion to dismiss, Plaintiffs conducted more investigation,
and now seek leave to file a second amended complaint
(“SAC”), adding new allegations about
Brenner's placement in administrative security
segregation, his several prescriptions, and Defendants'
alleged failures to provide adequate care despite their
knowledge of Brenner's history. [See generally,
ECF No. 34-2, Ex. B (“Second Am. Compl.”).]
Plaintiffs assert that these added facts bolster their
existing § 1983 and negligence claims. The proposed SAC
alleges that during his 2016 stay in Sherburne County,
Brenner was on “Max-Gown” status because he was a
suicide risk. Under “Max-Gown” status, Brenner
wore a Kevlar suicide prevention gown, received only a Kevlar
blanket and finger food, and was under special mental health
watch every fifteen minutes. (Id. ¶¶
to the SAC, Brenner remained on this “Max-Gown”
status and in administrative maximum security segregation
until his August 1, 2016 transfer to the Wright County Jail.
(Id. ¶¶ 67-71.) An Inmate Transfer Form
denoted that Brenner “was presently on a 30-minute
special watch, and that [he] was in maximum security
administrative segregation ‘[d]ue to his assaultive
history, comments made at arrival, and MH issues.'”
(Id. ¶ 80.)
with these new detailed allegations about Brenner's
status and suicide watch in 2016, the SAC asserts, in more
detail, the written requirement that he remain in
administration maximum security. (Id. ¶¶
86-212.) It also adds deliberate indifference allegations
against Dr. Todd Leonard, the sole member of MEnD and the
medical director/supervisor at the Sherburne County Jail, and
three corrections officers at Sherburne County-Rebecca Lucar,
Denny Russell, and James Rourke. (Id. ¶¶
6-11.) The SAC also adds allegations about Defendants'
history of deliberate indifference to other inmates.
(Id. ¶¶ 226-41.)
initial complaint alleged the following legal claims:
• § 1983 Deliberate Indifference against Asfeld,
Nowell, Leonard, John Does 1-2;
• Wrongful death/Professional negligence against Asfeld,
Nowell, Leonard, MEnD, Sherburne County, and John Does 1-2;
• Wrongful death/Negligence against Graves, John Does
and Sherburne County.
adds the following claims and defendants:
• § 1983 Supervisory Liability against Dr.Leonard;
• § 1983 Monell Liability against MEnD,
Dr. Leonard, and Sherburne County;
• § 1983 Deliberate Indifference against Wes
Graves, Rebecca Lucar, Denny Russell, James Rourke, and Dr.
• Wrongful death/Negligence against Lucar, Russell, and
existing and proposed Defendants oppose the Motion to Amend.
Defendants first argue prejudice as to the entire SAC, or, in
the alternative, for the Court to strike portions of the SAC
under Rule 12(f). The existing and proposed Defendants then
argue futility on various grounds, including that the SAC
does not meet the Iqbal/Twombly plausibility
standard and that Defendants are entitled to immunity.
Graves and Sherburne County (the “Sherburne
Defendants”) have brought a Motion to Dismiss the
operative First Amended Complaint.
MOTION TO AMEND
party seeks an amendment other than as a matter of course, a
party may amend its pleading only with the opposing
party's consent or the court's leave. Fed.R.Civ.P.
15(a). Rule 15(a) is a lenient standard, and a “good
cause” showing is required only after the expiration of
the applicable deadline in the scheduling order. See
Hebert v. Winona Cty., No. CV 15-469 (RHK/JJK), 2016 WL
7888036, at *1 (D. Minn. Apr. 7, 2016). Rule 15(a) favors
granting leave because this litigation is in its early
stages, as only a limited pretrial schedule has been set and
the motion to amend deadline has not passed. [See
ECF No. 48 (“Pretrial Scheduling Ord.”).]
is no absolute right to amend, though, and a “court may
appropriately deny leave to amend where there are compelling
reasons such as undue delay, bad faith, or dilatory motive,
repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendment previously
allowed, undue prejudice to the non-moving party, or futility
of the amendment.” Moses.com Sec., Inc. v.
Comprehensive Software Sys., Inc., 406 F.3d 1052, 1065
(8th Cir. 2005) (citations and quotation marks omitted).
Here, there is no claim of undue delay, bad faith, dilatory
motive, or repeated failure to cure pleading deficiencies.
Defendants instead assert that the Court should deny the
amendment because it will prejudice Defendants and is futile.
The Court addresses each argument below.
Correctional Care, PLLC, Danielle Sue Asfeld, Amanda Nowell,
and Christina Leonard (the “MEnD Defendants”)
argue that because they do not dispute the sufficiency of the
operative complaint, “[i]n asserting 195 new
allegations, Plaintiffs are imposing significant defense and
discovery burdens upon the MEnD Defendants without a
correlating benefit or relationship to this case.” [ECF
No. 46 (“MEnD Defs' Opp. To Leave”) at 10.]
They contend the new allegations will unduly burden discovery
without a good-faith basis to do so. ...