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Kellner v. University of Northern Iowa

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Eastern Division

March 5, 2014

KRISTA CLAIRE KELLNER, Plaintiff,
v.
UNIVERSITY OF NORTHERN IOWA, BLACK HAWK COUNTY, IOWA, TONY THOMPSON, Sheriff of Black Hawk County, DANA JAEGER and JOHN AND JANE DOES 1-5, Defendants.

ORDER

LINDA R. READE, Chief District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

The matter before the court is Defendants University of Northern Iowa ("UNI") and Officer Dana Jaeger's (collectively, "UNI Defendants") Motion to Dismiss ("Motion") (docket no. 9), filed pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6).

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On December 9, 2013, Plaintiff Krista Claire Kellner filed a three-count Petition ("Complaint") (docket no. 6) in the Iowa District Court for Black Hawk County, Case No. LACV 123522. In Count I of the Complaint, which Kellner brings pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 42 U.S.C. § 1997, she alleges that UNI; Black Hawk County, Iowa; Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson; Officer Dana Jaeger and John and Jane Does 1-5 (collectively, "Defendants") were deliberately indifferent to Kellner's "obvious and serious medical risks, " in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. In Count II of the Complaint, which Kellner also brings pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 42 U.S.C. § 1997, Kellner alleges that UNI, Black Hawk County and Sheriff Thompson had policies, customs or habits of providing inadequate medical care, in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. In Count III of the Complaint, Kellner asserts that the peace officers acting in the course of employment for UNI and the deputies and nurses acting in the course of employment for Black Hawk County and Sheriff Thompson were negligent in exercising their duty of care when treating Kellner. Kellner seeks general and special damages against Defendants for all counts, but she does not seek prospective or injunctive relief.

On January 14, 2014, Defendants removed the action to this court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction. Notice of Removal (docket no. 2). On January 24, 2014, UNI Defendants filed the Motion. On February 10, 2014, Kellner filed a Resistance (docket no. 10). On February 18, 2014, UNI Defendants filed a Reply (docket no. 11). On that same date, Defendants Black Hawk County and Sheriff Thompson (collectively, "Black Hawk County Defendants") filed a Response (docket no. 12) indicating that they were not involved in the issues raised by UNI Defendants in their Motion but noting that they cooperated in the removal of this matter to this court and that they intended to defend this matter in this court, regardless of the resolution of the Motion.[1]

III. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The facts, as set forth in the Complaint, are as follows:

A. Parties

Plaintiff Kellner is a citizen of the State of Iowa who resided in Black Hawk County, Iowa, during all times relevant to this matter.

Defendant UNI is a university in the State of Iowa, which is governed by the Iowa Board of Regents. The Iowa Board of Regents is a legislatively created body whose members are appointed by and answerable to the Governor of Iowa and which is statutorily charged with governing facilities and personnel, including those at UNI.

Defendant Officer Dana Jaeger was employed by UNI as a public safety officer during all times relevant to this matter.

Defendant Black Hawk County, Iowa is a county in Iowa.

Defendant Tony Thompson is the Sheriff of Black Hawk County, Iowa, and was the Sheriff of Black Hawk County during all times relevant to this matter. Kellner sues Sheriff Thompson in his individual and official capacities.

Kellner does not know the identities of Defendants John and Jane Does 1-5.

B. Overview of the Dispute

Kellner claims as follows:

On December 10, 2011, when the temperature was below zero degrees Fahrenheit, Kellner fell, injured her head and lost her shoes. Eventually, Officer Jaeger found Kellner, but Officer Jaeger did not address that Kellner was not wearing any shoes. After Officer Jaeger and John and Jane Does 1-5 detained Kellner in a police car without adequate heat and without any covering for her feet, they took Kellner to the Black Hawk County Jail where she was still not given care for her feet. Kellner was released the following day, but she suffered permanent damage to her feet because they had been exposed to cold temperatures.

IV. SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION

"Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, " and the threshold requirement in every federal case is jurisdiction. Godfrey v. Pulitzer Publ'g Co., 161 F.3d 1137, 1141 (8th Cir. 1998) (citing Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 94 (1998)). "Any party or the court may, at any time, raise the issue of subject matter jurisdiction." GMAC Commercial Credit LLC v. Dillard Dep't Stores, Inc., 357 F.3d 827, 828 (8th Cir. 2004) (citations omitted). "Without jurisdiction[, a] court cannot proceed at all in any cause. Jurisdiction is power to declare the law, and when it ceases to exist, the only function remaining to the court is that of announcing the fact and dismissing the cause." Steel Co., 523 U.S. at 94 (quoting Ex parte McCardle, 74 U.S. (7 Wall.) 506, 514 (1868)).

A. Original Jurisdiction

Original subject matter jurisdiction can be established in two ways: (1) by alleging a claim arising under federal law, see 28 U.S.C. § 1331 ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States."); or (2) by alleging diversity of citizenship between the parties. See

28 U.S.C. § 1332(a) ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000... and is between... (1) citizens of different States; [and] (2) ...


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