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Veatch v. City of Waverly

Court of Appeal of Iowa

November 6, 2013

MAXINE GAIL VEATCH, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CITY OF WAVERLY and JASON LEONARD, Individually And In His Official Capacity, Defendants-Appellees.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Bremer County, DeDra Schroeder, Judge.

John J. Hines and Laura L. Folkerts of Dutton, Braun, Staack & Hellman, P.L.C., Waterloo, for appellant.

Beth E. Hansen of Swisher & Cohrt, P.L.C., Waterloo, for appellees.

Heard by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Danilson, JJ.

DANILSON, J.

Plaintiff appeals the district court's ruling granting summary judgment to defendants.

Maxine Veatch appeals the district court's ruling granting summary judgment on all counts to defendants, the City of Waverly and Officer Jason Leonard. Veatch's petition alleged various counts but she has limited her appeal to counts alleging false imprisonment, negligence, and malicious prosecution. On appeal, Veatch contends the court erred when it determined the Eighth Circuit's finding of probable cause had preclusive effect on her state-law claims. Veatch also contends, contrary to the district court's ruling, she can recover punitive damages against Officer Leonard. Finally, the City and Officer Leonard contend if any causes of action do survive their motion, they are entitled to immunity. Veatch asks that we reverse the ruling of the district court and remand for further proceedings. Upon review, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.

I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

We adopt the Eighth Circuit's recitation of facts as our own:
On September 27, 2006, Veatch . . . visited [her mother] Bell at Woodland Terrace. During this visit, Janice Whiteside, a Bartels nurse, observed Veatch shove Bell into her wheelchair. At the direction of her supervisor, Whiteside submitted a written report of the incident to Brianna Brunner, the Director of Nursing for Bartels. After reviewing the report the following day, Brunner informed Debra Schroeder, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Bartels, and directed two Bartels nurses to examine Bell for possible injuries. The nurses discovered bruising on Bell's knee and forearms. Brunner also contacted the Waverly Police Department, relaying the substance of Whiteside's report to Officer Thomas Luebbers. Based on this conversation, Luebbers prepared a report and described the incident to Leonard, who was sent to investigate further. Leonard reported to Bartels and discussed the incident with Brunner, Schroeder, and two additional staff members, but he did not meet with Bell or Whiteside.
The next day, Leonard contacted Veatch and asked her to come to the Waverly Law Center to discuss the alleged incident. The two met, and Leonard described the allegation to Veatch. During the meeting, Veatch informed Leonard that she would like to have an attorney present. At that point, Leonard left the room to retrieve and complete a complaint form. When he returned, Leonard placed Veatch under arrest for assault. Veatch was placed in the Bremer County Jail, where she remained overnight. A magistrate judge later determined that Leonard had probable cause to make the arrest and then released Veatch on her own recognizance. The State of Iowa charged Veatch with simple misdemeanor assault in violation of Iowa Code §§ 708.1 and 708.2(6), and after a trial, a jury returned a verdict of not guilty.

Veatch v. Bartels Lutheran Home, 627 F.3d 1254, 1256 (8th Cir. 2010).

In June 2008, after the conclusion of the criminal trial, Veatch filed a civil action in the Northern District of Iowa against the City and Officer Leonard. The complaint included multiple claims, including a section 1983 federal claim.[1] The City and Officer Leonard filed a motion for summary judgment that was granted on October 9, 2009. In its ruling, the federal district court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state-law claims. Veatch filed a petition in state court, reasserting the state-law claims. She also appealed the district court's decision regarding her federal claim to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

While awaiting judgment from the Eighth Circuit, the City and Leonard filed a motion for summary judgment with the state district court. Veatch then filed a motion to stay proceedings in the state court. In it, she stated, "One issue in the Eighth Circuit appeal is whether Officer Leonard had probable cause to arrest Veatch without a warrant. Whether Officer Leonard had probable cause to arrest Veatch is either an element of proof or a defense to Veatch's state court claims against the City of Waverly and Jason Leonard. Pursuant to the doctrine of issue preclusion, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling will have preclusive effect in state court." The motion was granted.

The Eighth Circuit affirmed the ruling of the federal district court in 2010. In doing so the court found, "In this case, the information that Leonard received during the course of his investigation established probable cause." Following the ruling by the Eighth Circuit, the City and Leonard filed an application to lift the stay and order a hearing on their pending motion for summary judgment. The court granted the motion and scheduled a hearing for May 6, 2011.

Following the hearing, the state district court denied the City and Officer Leonard's motion for summary judgment. They then filed an application for interlocutory appeal which was also denied.

The case was assigned to a new judicial officer following the retirement of Judge McKinley, the district court judge previously assigned to the case. The City and Officer Leonard then filed a new motion for summary judgment on the same grounds they had previously asserted. The district court granted the motion in its entirety and dismissed all of Veatch's claims. She appeals.

II. Standard of Review.

We review summary judgment rulings for correction of errors at law. Crippen v. Cedar Rapids, 618 N.W.2d 562, 565 (Iowa 2000). If the record shows no genuine dispute of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, summary judgment is appropriate and we will affirm. See id. In determining whether summary judgment is warranted, we view the entire record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Id.

Likewise, to the extent our review involves the interpretation of statutory provisions, our review is for correction of errors at law. Jones v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 760 N.W.2d 186, 188 (Iowa 2008).

III. Discussion.

A. Issue Preclusion.

On appeal, Veatch contends the district court erroneously concluded the parties are precluded from re-litigating whether Officer Leonard had probable cause to arrest Veatch. "Issue preclusion, or direct or collateral estoppel, means simply that when an issue has once been determined by a valid and final judgment, that issue cannot again be litigated between the same parties in any future lawsuit." City of Johnston v. Christenson, 718 N.W.2d 290, 297 (Iowa 2006) (internal quotations omitted). In order for the prior determination to have preclusive effect, four elements must be met: (1) the issue concluded must be identical, (2) the issue must have been raised and litigated in the prior action, (3) the issue must have been material and relevant to the disposition in the prior action, and (4) the determination made of the issue in the prior action must have been necessary and essential to the resulting judgment. Id. at 297–98. Here, Veatch contends the City and Officer Leonard failed to prove the first and third elements.

Veatch's contention the first and third elements were not proven is premised upon the fact that one of the circumstances delineated in Iowa Code section 804.7 (2007), in addition to probable cause, must also be present for a warrantless arrest under Iowa law. Detention is lawful when the arresting officer has a warrant or ...


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