Family of Minn. teen who froze to death sues responders

The parents of Jake Anderson, 19, allege first responders declared their son dead before properly evaluating and transporting him to a hospital

By EMS1 Staff

MINNEAPOLIS — The parents of a college student who froze to death in 2013 filed a federal lawsuit last week, claiming first responders were negligent in providing their son medical care. 

Jake Anderson, 19, was found along the Mississippi River December 2013 after celebrating the end of his first year as a freshman, reported the Star Tribune. Responders who found Anderson said he was frozen to death. 

His parents, Bill and Kristi Anderson, are suing first responders for failing to pull Anderson from the cold to try and revive him. The suit references several cases where individuals survived subzero temperatures for 12 hours, even though they did not have a pulse and appeared to be dead. 

“We assumed everything was done to save him when they found him,” Kristi Anderson said. “When they come and tell you at two in the afternoon that your son is dead, you’re presupposing that they have taken every measure to save him.”

The Andersons are seeking a minimum of $75,000 per individual named in the suit.

According to their attorney, Anderson was found in a hypothermic state face down, slumped over a metal rail; he was mostly likely exposed to zero degree temperatures from 2 a.m. until he was found six to seven hours later. 

The lawsuit alleges that fire officials failed to recognize Anderson as a hypothermia victim and declared him dead after evaluating him for no more than 90 seconds. A fire report stated that Anderson had “no pulse and no breathing and was frozen, indicating obvious death.” However, fire procedure indicates that victims must be “cold in a warm environment” or have “obvious mortal trauma” before being classified as dead. 

“Everybody who lived through hypothermia was found by somebody who cared about them and did something about it,” Bill Anderson said. 

A most recent case happened a week before Anderson’s death, in which college student Alyssa Lommel was found frozen by a passerby; she had been exposed to minus-17 degrees for over nine hours. She was taken to a hospital and survived. 

“You can’t make an evaluation when a person is cold in a cold environment,” attorney Robert Hopper said. 

Minneapolis and Hennepin County Medical Center personnel have also been named in the suit. The city attorney’s office released a statement stating, “Jake Anderson’s death is tragic. However, first responders in the city of Minneapolis, including fire and police personnel, are not responsible for his death. We can only imagine the grief of Mr. Anderson’s parents, family and friends are experiencing.”

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