from the Iowa District Court for Page County, James M.
city of Shenandoah challenges the denial of its motion for
summary judgment seeking to dismiss the city from a
negligence suit brought by an injured pedestrian struck by a
police officer driving to work in his private vehicle.
Gregory G. Barntsen of Smith, Peterson Law Firm, Council
Bluffs, for appellant.
Johnson of Johnson Law, P.L.C., Sidney, for appellee.
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Tabor,
from Latin, respondeat superior means "let the principal
answer." Montanick v. McMillin, 280 N.W. 608,
613 (Iowa 1938). The principal in this case is the city of
Shenandoah. Injured pedestrian, Carol Teebo, argues the city
should answer for the actions of its police officer, Ethan
Johnson, who struck her while driving to work in his personal
vehicle. The district court agreed with Teebo and denied the
city's motion for summary judgment. In this interlocutory
appeal, the city contends the district court misinterpreted
or ignored case law interpreting the doctrine of respondeat
superior. Because Johnson was not acting within the scope of
his employment at the time of the collision, we reverse and
remand for the dismissal of Teebo's claims against the
Facts and Prior Proceedings
patrol officer Ethan Johnson was scheduled to clock in for
his eight-hour shift at 11:00 p.m. on Halloween night 2015.
Apparently running late, Johnson-clad in his uniform-was
commuting to work in his GMC pickup at 11:03 p.m. when he
turned left and struck Teebo, who was crossing Sycamore
Street, just half a block from the police station. After the
accident, Johnson was distraught and received counseling from
the police chaplain at the station. Another patrol officer
took Johnson's shift that night. The police chief placed
Johnson on paid administrative leave for five days. The Iowa
State Patrol interviewed Johnson about the accident.
August 2016, Teebo filed a negligence suit against Johnson,
alleging he failed to yield to a pedestrian and failed to
keep a proper lookout. According to Teebo, the collision
caused her serious harm, "including a severe head
injury, causing constant pain, discomfort, and restriction of
movement in the past and for an indefinite time for the
future." She amended her petition in May 2017 to add the
city of Shenandoah as a defendant. The amended petition
alleged the city was "responsible for the negligent acts
of its employees while on duty for the Shenandoah Police
Department." The amended petition further asserted that
at the time of the collision Johnson was "on duty and in
city filed an answer claiming Teebo "failed to allege
facts which would indicate the City of Shenandoah is
responsible for the alleged negligent acts of Ethan
Johnson." In August 2017, the city filed a motion for
summary judgment seeking to dismiss all claims against it.
The motion alleged Teebo "took Ethan Johnson's
deposition on April 5, 2017, and in that deposition he
indicated that he was on his way to work at the time the
accident happened driving his own vehicle." In support
of its motion, the city submitted a statement of material
facts, asserting as follows:
• "Ethan Johnson was on his way to work in his own
vehicle when his vehicle collided with the Plaintiff."
• "Ethan Johnson had not checked into work for the
Shenandoah Police Department at the time of the
• "He did not report for work with the Shenandoah
Police Department after the accident but was given the night
off and several days thereafter."
• "Police Chief Josh Gray . . . confirms Ethan
Johnson had not reported for work and did not report for work
as scheduled on October 31, 2015."
city attached the deposition of Johnson and the affidavit of
Gray to its statement of material facts.
filed her own statement of material facts, asserting:
• "Ethan Johnson, an employee of the Shenandoah
Police Department was driving on his way to work in uniform
when he negligently struck Carol Teebo at an intersection one