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Across the Region: Lawsuit says dead donor’s infected corneas led to bungled transplant


Lawsuit: Dead donor’s infected corneas led to bungled transplant

Two young Palestinians are suing a Sioux Falls-based eye and tissue bank, alleging they were provided infected corneas for transplant that have caused them both eye problems.

Because of the infected corneas, the lawsuit says a 19-year-old woman became blind in her right eye and a 17-year-old man’s vision is threatened in both eyes.

The federal lawsuit also targets Minnesota-based American Donor Services, which harvested the corneas after the donor died in July 2015.

The lawsuit alleges that 58-year-old Minnesota resident James Watten’s organs were harvested after his body had remained in a hot temperature for an “unreasonably long period of time.” The high for that day in Duluth was 85 degrees, and Watten’s apartment had poor air flow, according to the document.

The tissue went to the South Dakota Lions Eye and Tissue Bank before reaching the transplant team in July 2015. The lawsuit says both defendants had access to test results showing the corneas were infected, but didn’t try to recall the tissue or notify the transplant team.

American Donor Services declined to comment, while the tissue bank didn’t return a message from the newspaper.

The lawsuit says the 19-year-old woman is no longer “suitable for meaningful marriage in Palestinian culture” because of the failed transplant. The 17-year-old has also been deemed “unworthy” in his Palestinian community, according to the document.



Measure aimed at crime victims’ rights approved for ballot

North Dakotans will vote in November on a constitutional amendment that supporters believe will bolster the rights of crime victims in the state.

Secretary of State Al Jaeger announced Monday that supporters turned in 34,398 legal signatures, considerably more than the 26,904 names needed to put the idea on the statewide ballot.

North Dakota and South Dakota are among several states where national victims’ rights advocates are pushing the so-called Marsy’s Law measure, now in effect in California and Illinois.

Groups representing North Dakota defense attorneys and prosecutors say changing the constitution to include the proposal is a bad idea and will have unintended consequences. They say laws already are on the books that protect victims of violent crimes.



Judge upholds fine against boss who called black worker “chocolate guy”

A judge has upheld a Dubuque city commission’s ruling that a businessman racially discriminated against a former employee.

According to the The Dubuque Telegraph Herald, Judge Michael Shubatt issued the decision last week in the case involving Leo Simon, owner of Simon Seeding & Sod, and Jermaine Stapleton, who is black.

Stapleton filed a complaint with the Dubuque Human Rights Commission alleging Simon harassed and discriminated against him because of his race. He accused Simon of calling him such names as “colored guy,” ”chocolate lad” and “chocolate guy.”

According to court documents, Simon argued he did not use derogatory terms but admitted he may have called Stapleton “chocolate guy” as a joke.

The commission ordered Simon to pay $80,500 for lost wages, emotional distress and attorney fees.



Ex-detective pleads guilty to civil rights violation

A former Milwaukee police detective has pleaded guilty to violating the civil rights of a handcuffed suspect by assaulting him.

Forty-nine-year-old Rodolfo Gomez Jr. entered his plea Tuesday in U.S. District Court.

Prosecutors says Gomez admitted he repeatedly punched the suspect in the face and head and kneed him in the torso while one of the suspect’s hands was handcuffed to a wall in the police interview room in August 2013.

In pleading guilty, Gomez acknowledged that he used excessive force and that the suspect suffered bodily injury.

Gomez was fired from the department. Last year, a jury in Milwaukee County acquitted him on felony charges of misconduct in public office and abuse of a prisoner.


Committee winnows Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates

The committee helping Gov. Scott Walker select a replacement for retiring state Supreme Court Justice David Prosser said it has narrowed the field of candidates from 11 to five.

The 73-year-old Prosser announced in April he plans to retire on July 31. Walker has the power to appoint his replacement.

Walker’s office announced Wednesday that an advisory committee interviewed the candidates Monday and recommends inviting five candidates back for a second interview.

The candidates include Mark Gundrum and Thomas Hruz, both state appeals court judges; Jefferson County Circuit Judge Randy Koschnick; Marinette County Circuit Judge James Morrison; and attorney Daniel Kelly.

Gundrum was elected to the state Assembly as a Republican in 1998 and served alongside Walker in the chamber. Walker appointed him to the 2nd District Court of Appeals in 2011. The governor appointed Hruz to the 3rd District Court of Appeals in 2014. Walker also appointed Morrison to his judgeship in Marinette County in 2012.

Koshnick is the father of Walker’s chief staff attorney. Kelly is a Waukesha-based attorney who specializes in campaign finance, contracts and defending government agencies. He defended Republicans’ 2011 legislative redistricting plan in a federal lawsuit alleging the maps denied voters their rights.

The committee did not recommend a second interview for River Falls attorney Andrew Brown; Madison attorney Claude Covelli; Brian Hagedorn, who served as Walker’s chief attorney before the governor appointed him as a 2nd District appellate judge last year; Wisconsin Public Service Commission Chairwoman Ellen Nowak; Milwaukee attorney Paul Scoptur; and Madison attorney Jim Troupis.

Walker plans to announce his pick by July 31.

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