HCMC, Minneapolis sued in U of M student's hypothermia death

The family of University of Minnesota student Jake Anderson has filed a lawsuit against Hennepin County Medical Center, HCMC first responders and the Minneapolis Police Department and Fire Department, claiming they caused the wrongful death of the freshman in December 2013.

Jake Anderson’s body was found Dec. 15, 2013, along the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, below the 10th Avenue Bridge. The 19-year-old was planning to walk a young woman home from a party, but he vanished while she was retrieving her coat.

According to the lawsuit, a photographer who was taking pictures of the sunrise on the river found Anderson’s body and called 911. Minneapolis firefighters arrived on the scene first, followed by HCMC EMS and Minneapolis police. The lawsuit states that 2 1/2 hours later, the Hennepin County medical examiner was called to the scene.

The Anderson family says the response to the 911 call shows Minneapolis firefighters called off EMS, declaring Anderson dead “after only a perfunctory assessment.”

The lawsuit highlights the Minneapolis Fire Department’s patient care guidelines for hypothermia, which say “a patient outcome cannot be determined until rewarming is complete” and that CPR and AED should be attempted if no pulse is detected.

“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,” the law firm Robert R Hopper & Associates said in announcing the lawsuit. “Any pronouncement of death could not be given at all until Mr. Anderson was warmed, and that a complete assessment was made to determine he was ‘brain dead’ according to the medical standard of care in such circumstances.”

Similar incident in Duluth

Hopper points to the case of University of Minnesota-Duluth student Alyssa Jo Lommel, who was found unconscious after spending more than nine hours in subzero temperatures. A passerby called 911 and Lommel was taken to the hospital and survived.

The lawsuit seeks a minimum of $75,000 on damages 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.”

Jake's Law

A new Minnesota law, which went into effect on August 1, allows you to state in a will, or in writing, whether you want your digital assets passed along to someone when you die. the push for the law began with Anderson's death. Anderson's parents hoped to find clues on his iPhone, but Apple would not give them access since he was an adult. READ MORE

Minnesota is now one of about 20 states with a digital assets law. States are limited in what their laws can provide due to federal laws.