NOTE: This story has been updated with responses to our calls for comment.
Bret Breunig was killed by a train after law enforcement took him from Loma Linda University Medical Center, with an infected leg and without a phone or wallet, and left him by the train crossing in San Timoteo Canyon, his mother claims. She has sued the medical center and two law-enforcement agencies she believes might be responsible for the drop-off.
Deborah Moller’s July 27 complaint claims her son arrived at LLUMC Aug. 18, 2021, requiring emergency medical treatment due to an infection impacting his left foot and leg. His infection, and a prior surgery, harmed Breunig’s movement.
LLUMC workers improperly screened Breunig, his mother claims. His medical screening was not calculated to identify critical medical conditions, was of a lower level than other patients received, did not meet the center’s procedures for a screening examination and did not provide Breunig with remedies, Moller claims.
The complaint does not specify whether he was accompanied or explain the circumstances of his initial release.
Loma Linda University Health declined to comment.
“We are unable to comment on any pending litigation. Due to patient privacy laws, we are also unable to provide information related to any specific patient or their treatment,” spokesperson Briana Pastorino said.
It does say that medical staff called law enforcement to forcibly remove him from their emergency room. Moller does not know if the responding officers were Redlands police officers or sheriff’s deputies.
Gloria Huerta, speaking on behalf of the Sheriff’s Department, declined by email to comment as a matter of policy for pending litigation. The Redlands Police Department said through spokesman Carl Baker, “We were surprised to be named in the lawsuit, and believe we were included in error since we had no part in any of the events leading up to Mr. Breunig’s death.”
Neither agency has addressed our request to clarify who responded to the LLUMC call.
When the officers removed Breunig from the emergency room at 11:30 a.m., he was visibly impaired, unable to take care of himself and only wore a hospital gown, Moller claims. She did not specify in the complaint why he was impaired or could not take care of himself.
He did not wear shoes, have a phone or money on him, and did not have crutches to help him move, she claims.
Moller claims the officers should have taken Breunig to their station for booking until he was no longer a danger to himself. She does not indicate in the complaint what crime he should have been booked for or why he was an obvious danger to himself, but the complaint says, “…Responding officers and responding deputies had made contact with decedent on multiple occasions in the several days prior to Aug. 18, 2021, and were thus aware of the fact that decedent posed a danger to himself or others by virtue of this prior contact.”
She says that what officers did do is leave her son at the train crossing near the intersection of Alessandro Road and San Timoteo Canyon Road in Redlands.
At the time, a train was approaching, and Breunig somehow got into its path and was fatally struck.
“Responding deputies and/or responding officers knew that (Breunig) was a danger to his own safety and the safety of others, knew that (Breunig) must be kept in custody until he was no longer a danger, or transferred to an appropriate medical facility, and knew that (Breunig) would face great bodily harm and death if (Breunig) was not so treated. Yet in reckless disregard of that knowledge, the responding deputies and/or responding officers released (Breunig) even though a reasonable person in the responding deputies’ and/or responding officers’ position would have appreciated the high degree of risk and harm involved,” Moller’s complaint says.
Records request unfulfilled
Moller also claims Redlands and San Bernardino County conspired to fabricate details and destroy evidence about Breunig’s death.
Moller had submitted a May 26 California Public Records Act request, asking for body-camera videos, officer identities, Brenuig’s booking evidence, custody logs, reports and witness statements. The county requested further time to process Moller’s request on July 15. Redlands sent letters June 1 and 16 saying Moller’s request was pending. Neither has fulfilled the request, Moller’s complaint claims.
The complaint brings claims of failure to protect, a due process interference with parent-and-child relationship, a state created danger, due process violation of a special relationship, a municipal liability claim and a violation of California’s Public Records Act against the governments.
It also brings a violation of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act against Loma Linda University Medical Center, and a negligence cause and a Bane Act Violation cause against all defendants.
Moller requests general, special, hedonic, punitive and compensatory damages. She also asks for compliance with her Public Records Act request.
Defendant’s answers are due Aug. 25.
Ashley Conlogue and Kevin Conlogue of Beverly Hills’ Law Office of Kevin S. Conlogue represent Moller.
Attorneys for the defendants have not yet been announced.
Central District of California Judge Dale Fischer presides.
Case number 5:22-cv-01306
Read the complaint here.