Robert R. Hopper & Assoc. represents an Orono, Minnesota family in a lawsuit against Hennepin County Medical Center and the City of Minneapolis for the deprivation of their son’s Civil Rights.

HENNEPIN COUNTY MEDICAL CENTER AND CITY OF MINNEAPOLIS ARE SUED FOR THE DEPRIVATION OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS OF U OF M STUDENT JAKE ANDERSON 

Claims include a Violation of Due Process under the 14th Amendment for Depriving Jake Anderson of his Right to Life and for Failure to Properly Respond, Assess, Treat and Transport Jake Anderson to the E.R. when he was found as Victim of Hypothermia

The lawsuit claims that none of the First Responders or the Hennepin County Medical Examiner ever implemented their own Hypothermia protocol, as required by law, to treat Mr. Anderson as a victim of hypothermia, by immediately removing him from the cold and taking him to the emergency room to re-warm. The lawsuit claims that all of these medical professionals, by failing to properly assess and treat Mr. Anderson; and by not immediately bringing him to a warm environment, fell below the standard of care applied in such circumstances which is “you are not dead until warm dead.”

Minneapolis – An Orono family has sued the Hennepin County Medical Center and its EMS and the Hennepin County Medical Examiners Office, along with the City of Minneapolis Fire and Police Departments in a lawsuit claiming they deprived their son, Jacob Anderson, of his constitutional due process rights to life.

The facts of the lawsuit filed today show that Mr. Anderson, then a first semester freshman at the University of Minnesota, was found frozen along the Mississippi River, below the 10th Avenue Bridge in Minneapolis, during the early morning hours of December 15, 2013.

The complaint states that a photographer who was taking pictures of the sunrise along the river first discovered Mr. Anderson. Upon discovering Mr. Anderson’s body, the photographer called 911. In sequential order, as First Responders, the Minneapolis Fire Department (MFD) arrived on the scene first, followed by HCMC EMS, the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) and last, some two hours later, representatives of the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office.

The facts pleaded in the complaint show that the Minneapolis Fire Department, after only a perfunctory assessment of Mr. Anderson’s condition, summarily pronounced Mr. Anderson dead and called off HCMC EMS, just as they arrived at the scene. Similarly, each First Responder that followed did the same, doing absolutely nothing to further assess or treat Mr. Anderson’s condition, leaving Mr. Anderson in the freezing cold. The Minneapolis Police Department had the authority to keep HCMC EMS at the scene to treat Jake Anderson, but did not do so.  The MFD, as the first emergency responders to the scene, should have followed their Patient Care Guidelines for Hypothermia, which instructs that “if no pulse start CPR [and] attach AED” (Automated External Defibrillator) and further instructs, “…patient outcome cannot be determined until rewarming is complete.”  Making matters worse and further exposing Mr. Anderson to extremely cold conditions, the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office never sent a doctor to examine Mr. Anderson; and instead, sent two death investigators who upon arrival, placed Mr. Anderson in a body bag and took him to the County Morgue.

The lawsuit points out that these facts showing gross negligence and egregious conduct are striking when compared to the legal and medical standards applied in such a circumstance where medical professionals encounter a hypothermia victim. Here, both the City and the County have their own legislatively enacted protocols for treating victims of hypothermia, but failed to implement such protocols when first discovering Jake Anderson. Further, the medical standard of care, which applies to hypothermia victims and has been well settled for decades, is replete within the medical literature, enunciating that “a person is not dead until warm dead.”  Short of such extreme circumstances involving decapitation, skin slippage or apparent animal predation on a body, none of which were the case for Jake Anderson, medical professionals at the scene knew or should have known that they were required to implement the department’s hypothermia protocol, including to immediately perform CPR if possible, but without hesitation to take Mr. Anderson to the ER to begin warming his body.

Accordingly, the lawsuit alleges that all of the medical professionals, who arrived at the scene, and later at the Medical Examiners office, could not and should not have summarily pronounced Jake Anderson dead simply because he was frozen stiff. Any pronouncement of death could not be given at all, until Mr. Anderson was warmed, according to the medical standard of care in such circumstances.

Important to note is that in a similar situation, just a week earlier, on Dec. 6, 2013, in Duluth, MN, a young female college student, Alyssa Jo Lommel, was found frozen stiff by passersby after she was exposed to dangerously low temperatures for more than 9 (nine) hours.  Ms. Lommel had been dropped off at her home at about midnight, passed out and remained on the doorstep until 9:30 am the following morning.  The passersby called 911. Emergency services arrived, assessed Ms. Lommel’s condition, and immediately took Ms. Lommel to the hospital.  Unlike Jake Anderson, Ms. Lommel survived over 9 (nine) hours of exposure to temperatures of -17º F (substantially colder than the temperature when Jake Anderson was found) because she received proper EMS life support and emergency care, and is alive today to tell her story.

Similarly, nearly 40 years ago on December 20, 1980, 19-year-old Jean Hilliard of Lengby, MN, was found, literally frozen stiff by a family friend who described her ”like a piece of meat out of a deep freeze,” when he found her in the snow after a night of 22-below-zero temperatures.  The friend immediately took Ms. Hilliard to the hospital where she was warmed and received the proper medical attention.  Ms. Hilliard survived the ordeal with no permanent damage to the brain or body, other than frostbite.  Importantly, as far back as January 9, 1981, a Spartanburg Herald newspaper article explored the affects and survival of hypothermia, in light of the Hilliard case.  According to the article, Dr. Richard Young of the Hershey, PA, Medical Center “and others say [severe hypothermia survival] happens often enough that an apparent victim of exposure to the cold or cold water drowning should never be written off – even if there are virtually no signs of life – until normal temperatures are restored.” The article goes on to say that the human body reacts to extreme cold much like a hibernating animal; internal activity is slowed, which dramatically reduces the cells’ demand for oxygen from the blood, putting the brain in a “sort of suspended animation,” contributing to brain and cardiac protection. Dr. Richard, Iseke, then Associate Director of the Boston Emergency Medical Center, which treats several cases of hypothermia per year, stated “There’s a term we have that says no one is dead until they’re warm dead.”

Randy Hopper, the Minneapolis attorney representing the Anderson family said, “This is a tragic situation that did not and should not have ever happened. Based upon prevailing medical literature and its confirmed statistics, without question, Jake Anderson could have been saved when he was found frozen, but sadly, he was zipped up into a body bag and taken to the morgue, rather than taken to the ER to be warmed.”

Mr. Hopper went on to say that “In my nearly 30 years of practicing law, I have not been involved in or witnessed any other case where such egregious level of conduct has occurred which led to such a tragic death; and in this instance, lead to a healthy young man, Jake Anderson, to lose his chance to live.”

Jacob Anderson was a 2013 graduate of Orono High School, a first semester freshman at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, a member of Phi Kappa Alpha fraternity, a University of Minnesota lacrosse player, and a son, brother and friend to many.

As a remedy, the lawsuit seeks money damages; special damages and any and all available equitable remedies, including prohibiting defendants and other First Responders and medical professionals from deviating from enacted protocol and standard operating procedures in cases of hypothermia; punitive/exemplary damages; and and and all damages available pursuant to violations of federal civil rights laws.

Family of U of M freshman who froze to death in 2013 sues first responders, Star Tribune, Dec. 12, 2016

Family sues HCMC, city over U of M student’s death, KARE, December 12, 2016

HCMC, Minneapolis sued in U of M student’s hypothermia death, FOX9, December 12, 2106

‘U’ Student’s Family Suing City Of Mpls. For Wrongful Death, CBS Minnesota, December 12, 2016

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