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Paradis v. Nichols

United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin

January 30, 2018

TIA PARADIS, Plaintiff,


          BARBARA B. CRABB, District Judge

         In this civil action for monetary relief brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, plaintiff Tia Paradis contends that defendant Douglas County, defendant City of Superior and several of their employees failed to provide appropriate medical treatment for her incipient frostbite while she was incarcerated at the Douglas County jail. She also brings a state law negligence claim against Douglas County. Now before the court are the motions for summary judgment filed by defendants Dan Nichols, Rich Davidson and Douglas County (the county defendants), dkt. #45, and defendants Gary Kneisl, Marc Letendre, Matt Brown and the City of Superior (the city defendants), dkt. #49. Although plaintiff's injuries from frostbite proved to be serious and permanent, she has failed to show that any of the defendants can be held liable for them. Accordingly, I am granting defendants' motions.

         From the parties' proposed findings of fact and the record, I find that the following facts are undisputed, unless otherwise noted.


         A. The Parties

         Plaintiff Tia Paradis is a resident of Minnesota and a registered nurse who works in the heart and lung transplant cardiac unit at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. She graduated in May 2015 with a degree in nursing from Winona State University in Minnesota.

         Defendant City of Superior is a Wisconsin municipal corporation. At all times relevant to this case, defendants Gary Kneisl, Marc Letendre and Matt Brown were employed by the City of Superior Police Department as police officers.

         Defendant Douglas County is located in Wisconsin, and the Douglas County jail is located in Superior, Wisconsin. At all times relevant to this case, defendants Dan Nichols and Rich Davidson were employed by the Douglas County Sheriff's Department as sergeants at the jail.

         B. Defendants' Training

         1. City police officers

         In Wisconsin, the training of police officers is governed by state law. The state's Law Enforcement Standards Board sets minimum requirements for police officer training. Defendants Kneisl, Brown and Letendre have met the state training requirements throughout their employment.

         Defendant Letendre has a college degree and is certified as an emergency medical technician, firefighter and paramedic. In 2010, he completed course work to become a registered nurse and currently is in graduate school for emergency management leadership. Before becoming a police officer in 2012, Letendre worked in the dispatch center for a few years and served as a deputy medical examiner in Douglas County for one year. He is the SWAT medic and teaches the SWAT team on rescue tactics.

         Letendre has had training related to frostbite and hypothermia and, as a paramedic, has treated people exposed to frostbite. He knows that frostbite is very difficult to identify in its early stages, that it takes time for visible symptoms to appear and that to stop frostbite from progressing, the victim has to be removed from the cold and not re-exposed to the cold. He also knows that it is generally a person's extremities that are most affected by frostbite. Dkt. #56 at 13.

         Kneisl and Brown have not had any training in identifying frostbite. However, Kneisl knows that it is not possible to say what specific amount of exposure time or specific degree of coldness is required for frostbite to set in.

         2. County jail officers

         Jail officers receive medical training from the academy every two years during their employment. The medical training includes the identification of signs of frostbite, such as severe discoloration of the skin, skin that is hard to the touch and complaints of pain. Both Nichols and Davison received the frostbite training through their employment and through the Red Cross. The Red Cross guide on frostbite and hypothermia states that “[f]rostbite and hypothermia are cold-related emergencies that may quickly become life or limb threatening” and that “[s]ignals of frostbite include - lack of feeling in the affected area; skin that appears waxy, is cold to the touch, or is discolored (flushed, white or gray, yellow or blue).” Red Cross, Frostbite and Hypothermia, March 2007 (accessed electronically at on Jan. 30, 2018).

         C. Municipal Policies and Procedures

         1. City of Superior

         The Superior Police Department has a mandatory policy for insuring that detainees receive necessary medical treatment while they are in custody. If an officer notices an injury or if an arrested person complains about feeling pain or being injured, the officer must investigate the nature of the injury and the history of past illness to try to determine whether there is a current medical need. For example, when arresting someone, Kneisl does not conduct a physical examination, but if he notices an injury or if someone complains of pain, he is required to investigate by asking where the pain is located, what is causing it and how severe it is.

         The Superior Police Department has the following “General Order” addressing medical treatment of arrestees:

         406.01 Policy

A. The Department is responsible for ensuring medical treatment is given to any prisoner with injuries sustained before or during arrest and booking.

         406.02 Procedure

A. It is the arresting officer's responsibility to ensure prisoner injuries are treated prior to releasing that prisoner from the officer's custody or incarcerating him.
1. In the event of an apparent non serious injury and if the arrestee is to be released without incarceration, the officer will offer to drop him/her off ...

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