Wrongful death lawsuit

The Steele County Detention Center, as well as Sheriff Lon Thiele and multiple others, were subject to a wrongful death lawsuit that went to jury trial this week. The jury found no proof of medical malpractice. (File photo/southernminn.com)

A wrongful death lawsuit that accused multiple people and entities of failing to diagnose a former inmate with prostate cancer while he was in custody has concluded with the jury finding no proof of medical malpractice.

The lawsuit, filed in September 2019 by the family of Elbert Larkins, accused Steele County Sheriff Lon Thiele, a nurse in the county, the county itself and the prisons in both Faribault and Rush City, as well as several doctors, of medical malpractice. Larkin was not diagnosed with the cancer that eventually killed him until March 17, 2017. Larkins spent time incarcerated in Rush City, Faribault and Steele County between 2014 and 2017. He died on May 7, 2018.

According to the lawsuit, Larkins on numerous occasions and at all three facilities complained to medical personnel at the facilities that there was blood in his urine and his semen. The suit claims the doctors failed to refer Larkins to a urologist for further evaluation and a prostate exam/blood tests.

Prior to going to trial Monday, all but one defendant in the suit were dropped from the case via dismissal with prejudice by Judge Joseph Bueltel, meaning the lawsuit can not be refiled. Steele County, Thiele and nurse Leah Kent were removed from the lawsuit in July of this year.

The suit specifically alleged negligence against Steele County and Sheriff Thiele, stating that when Larkins was transferred from Steele County back to Minnesota Correctional Facility-Faribault on or about Oct. 13, 2016, Larkins’ medical records were not transferred with him as required by law. However, Judge Bueltel determined in July that the county and sheriff “sufficiently demonstrated there is no dispute that Larkins’ SCDC medical records were sent with him upon his transfer” and that the jail had maintained an appropriate written policy during the timeframe at issue.

Dr. William Scheidt, a general surgeon who saw Larkins as a patient in 2016 while Larkins was incarcerated at the Steele County Detention Center, was the final defendant in the lawsuit. The trial lasted two days, with the jury delivering their verdict Tuesday.

The jury found Scheidt had not been negligent in the care and treatment provided to Larkins and that no compensation is owed to the family.

Reach Associate Editor Annie Granlund at 507-444-2378 or follow her on Twitter @AnnieGranlund. ©Copyright 2021 APG Media of Southern Minnesota.

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