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Harrison v. City of Ankeny Police Department

Court of Appeals of Iowa

October 11, 2017

JANELLE HARRISON, Plaintiff-Appellant,

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Jeanie K. Vaudt, Judge.

         Plaintiff appeals an adverse grant of summary judgment in this civil suit for negligence and tortious infliction of emotional distress.

          Nathan A. Olson and Christine E. Branstad of Branstad Law, P.L.L.C., Des Moines, for appellant.

          Jason C. Palmer and Thomas M. Boes of Bradshaw, Fowler, Proctor & Fairgrave P.C., Des Moines, for appellees.

          Heard by Danilson, C.J., and Tabor and McDonald, JJ.

          MCDONALD, JUDGE.

         Janelle Harrison worked as a confidential informant for the Mid-Iowa Narcotics Enforcement Task Force (MINE Task Force). During the course of an investigation, Harrison was sexually assaulted by the target of the investigation in the target's home. She brought this action against the Ankeny Police Department, a participating agency in the MINE Task Force, and an individual officer of the Ankeny Police Department. She claims the defendants acted negligently in supervising the investigation and their actions constituted tortious infliction of emotional distress. The district court granted summary judgment to the defendants on the following grounds: (1) Harrison's claims were barred by statutory immunities; (2) the defendants did not owe Harrison a duty due to the public duty doctrine; (3) Harrison's assailant's conduct was unforeseeable as a matter of law; (4) Harrison's claim was barred by the assumption of the risk doctrine; and (5) Harrison's claim for tortious interference failed as a matter of law.


         We review the district court's grant of summary judgment for correction of errors at law. Boelman v. Grinnell Mut. Reins. Co., 826 N.W.2d 494, 500 (Iowa 2013). A district court properly grants summary judgment when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id. at 501. An issue of fact is material if "the dispute is over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit, given the applicable law." Weddum v. Davenport Cmty. Sch. Dist., 750 N.W.2d 114, 117 (Iowa 2008). "An issue of fact is 'genuine' if the evidence is such that a reasonable finder of fact could return a verdict or decision for the nonmoving party." Huck v. Wyeth, Inc., 850 N.W.2d 353, 362 (Iowa 2014). "We can resolve a matter on summary judgment if the record reveals a conflict concerning only the legal consequences of undisputed facts." Boelman, 826 N.W.2d at 501. The burden is on the moving party to show it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Sallee v. Stewart, 827 N.W.2d 128, 133 (Iowa 2013).

         "Even if facts are undisputed, summary judgment is not proper if reasonable minds could draw from them different inferences and reach different conclusions." Walker Shoe Store, Inc. v. Howard's Hobby Shop, 327 N.W.2d 725, 728 (Iowa 1982). "The party resisting the motion for summary judgment should be afforded every legitimate inference that can reasonably be deduced from the evidence." Rock v. Warhank, 757 N.W.2d 670, 673 (Iowa 2008). We view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Clinkscales v. Nelson Sec., Inc., 697 N.W.2d 836, 841 (Iowa 2005). However, the resisting party, rather than resting upon the pleadings, "must set forth specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue for trial." Cemen Tech, Inc. v. Three D Indus., L.L.C., 753 N.W.2d 1, 5 (Iowa 2008).


         Harrison's first claim of error is the district court impermissibly weighed the evidence and resolved disputed issues of fact in resolving the motion for summary judgment. It is well established that "a court deciding a motion for summary judgment must not weigh the evidence, but rather simply inquire whether a reasonable jury faced with the evidence presented could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Clinkscales, 697 N.W.2d at 841. Harrison identifies several fact disputes the district court purportedly impermissibly resolved. We need not decide whether the district court impermissibly resolved the identified disputes in deciding the motion for summary judgment, however, because the purported disputed issues of fact are not material to the resolution of this case. See Weddum, 750 N.W.2d at 117 (defining "material").

         "Iowa Code chapter 670 establishes the parameters of a municipality's liability for the negligent acts or omissions of its officers and employees." Kershner v. City of Burlington, 618 N.W.2d 340, 342-43 (Iowa 2000). A city is subject to liability unless one of the exemptions listed in section 670.4 (2014) applies. See id. Iowa Code section 670.4(1)(j) provides immunity for

[a]ny claim based upon an act or omission of an officer or employee of the municipality, whether by issuance of permit, inspection, investigation, or otherwise, and whether the statute, ordinance, or regulation is valid, if the damage was caused by a third party, event, or property not under the supervision or control of the municipality, unless the act or ...

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