A lawsuit over the handling by Stearns County and medical personnel of a county jail inmate who committed suicide can go forward, a U.S. District judge ruled Monday.
Judge Ann Montgomery denied a motion by a defendant seeking to dismiss the case, in which the family of Kyle Baxter-Jensen argued that jail and medical staff were deliberately indifferent to his medical needs.
In December 2010, Baxter-Jensen, 28, used a jail-issued razor to cut his neck and both wrists. He had been arrested a month earlier on drunken-driving charges.
Baxter-Jensen had cut himself with a razor the day after he arrived at the Stearns County jail, which prompted a hospital visit and a physician's mental health assessment that concluded he needed close observation due to depression, according to court documents.
Andrew Noel, an attorney with Minneapolis-based Gaskins Bennett Birrell Schupp, representing Baxter-Jensen's mother, Kathleen Baxter-Knutson, said the defendants knew Baxter-Jensen was in need of serious help and therefore violated his constitutional rights.
Baxter-Knutson is seeking recovery of damages under federal law.
"This is the first step on our way to try to vindicate Kyle Baxter-Jensen's civil rights," Noel said.
Attorneys for the defendants had argued that a dismissal was warranted in part because a three-year statute of limitations had expired. Baxter-Knutson, who was appointed the trustee for the next-of-kin of Baxter-Jensen, initiated the lawsuit on Sept. 24, 2014, three years and 294 days after her son's death.
Attorneys for Baxter-Knutson, however, argued that the court should apply a six-year limitation period based on Minnesota's residual personal-injury statute of limitations.
In her 11-page opinion, Montgomery said that state law sets forth a six-year limitation period, which the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has recognized as governing certain personal-injury claims made under federal law in Minnesota.
"Baxter-Knutson brought this suit less than six years after Baxter-Jensen's death," she wrote. "The suit is therefore timely."