A federal court has ruled against a former Becker County jail inmate who claims his civil rights were violated in 2015 when he says he was denied medical attention for what turned out to be leukemia.
Kyle Allen Rusness, 37, of Detroit Lakes filed a multi-million dollar federal lawsuit against Becker County and eight employees, including Sheriff Todd Glander.
According to a 14-page complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, Rusness was "near death" when he was taken to a hospital after spending 2-1/2 weeks in the jail.
Court documents say Rusness was suffering from "life threatening anemia" and bleeding into his brain and both eyes.
In the complaint, attorney Oliver Nelson of Minneapolis, says the county showed "deliberate and inhumane indifference" to his client's condition. He's asking for at least $3 million.
Rusness was in jail in connection with a burglary charge between Jan. 17 and Feb. 3, 2015.
Becker County was represented in the case by the Minnesota Counties Intergovernmental Trust, which appointed attorney Anna Yunker of the Rosemount law firm Everett & Vanderwiel to handle the case.
In its defense, the county noted that corrections officers did not know Rusness had leukemia, as it had not yet been diagnosed. The county argued that officers had taken Rusness’ medical complaints seriously, and acted in accordance with his much less serious medical diagnosis at the time.
Rusness’s intake form stated that his medical concerns consisted of MRSA, an infection in the mouth, a body rash, and heart issues. The form also states Rusness was taking the antibiotic Bactrim. After entering custody, Rusness submitted a sick call request listing in detail various symptoms he had: Heart pain, night sweats, bleeding and swollen gums, blurry vision, dizziness, and extreme fatigue.
Registered nurses with Sunnyside Care Center provided inmate care at the time. Rusness had bleeding issues and other ailments, but refused to see a nurse on Jan. 19. He was taken to the Essentia Health walk-in medical clinic on Jan. 24, and a nurse practitioner diagnosed him with gingivitis and a skin infection. A follow-up with a family doctor was recommended and an appointment made for Feb. 3. A dental appointment was made for Feb. 4. The county’s defense outlined numerous medical contacts and documentation involving Rusness’ health issues while he was in jail, and noted that corrections officers were concerned about his health.
Rusness was ultimately diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. Since March 2018, he has been in complete remission, according to court records. However, he suffers two permanent conditions: his brain bleeding led to a permanent “gray cloud” in the periphery of his left eye. And he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
In a 22-page order issued Jan. 7, U.S. District Judge Joan N. Ericksen granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment and dismissed all five counts with prejudice, preventing Rusness from filing another lawsuit based on the same grounds.
Rusness’ attorney, Oliver Nelson, did not return a phone message, but Becker County Attorney Brian McDonald said Rusness has appealed the ruling.