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McClellan v. Ramirez

Court of Appeals of Iowa

June 5, 2019

WILLIAM McCLELLAN, RACQUEL McCLELLAN, Individually and as Next Friend for Minor Child, R.B., Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
PABLO ORLANDO RAMIREZ, and the CITY OF DUBUQUE, IOWA, Defendants-Appellees.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Dubuque County, Monica Zrinyi Wittig, Judge.

         William McClellan and Racquel McClellan, individually and as next friend for minor child R.B., appeal the district court order entering summary judgment in favor of the defendants. REVERSED AND REMANDED.

          David A. O'Brien of Dave O'Brien Law, Cedar Rapids, for appellants.

          Les V. Reddick and Todd L. Stevenson of Kane, Norby & Reddick, P.C., Dubuque, for appellees.

          Considered by Potterfield, P.J., and Doyle and Tabor, JJ.

          DOYLE, JUDGE.

         William McClellan and Racquel McClellan, individually and as next friend for their minor child R.B., appeal the district court order entering summary judgment in favor of the defendants on their claim for damages arising from a collision with a police vehicle. They challenge the district court's application of law regarding municipal immunity and its determination concerning the existence of an emergency at the time of the collision. Concluding that a negligence, not recklessness, standard applies, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings.

         On February 28, 2016, the McClellan family was driving in a Dodge Neon traveling south on Garfield Avenue in Dubuque when they were struck by a northbound police Chevrolet Tahoe SUV driven by Dubuque police officer Pablo Ramirez. The undisputed facts show that at 10:11:09 a.m. Officer Ramirez was dispatched to the scene of an assault in progress. The dispatch was a "Code 1" emergency response requiring the use of emergency lights and sirens pursuant to Dubuque Police Department policy. Officer Ramirez engaged his vehicle's emergency lights and siren as he responded to the call. While en route, Officer Ramirez was informed that the call was downgraded to a "Code 2" rapid response, in which the officer has discretion in the use of emergency lights and siren under the department's policy. Officer Ramirez reached into the center console and turned off the lights and siren. Shortly thereafter, at 10:12:00 a.m., while still on the way to the scene of the assault, Officer Ramirez attempted to turn left from Garfield Avenue onto Johnson Street and struck the front of the oncoming McClellan vehicle. An ambulance was dispatched to the scene at 10:13:00 a.m.

         The McClellans filed suit individually and on behalf of their child against Officer Ramirez and the City of Dubuque, alleging Officer Ramirez was negligent in a number of respects. In their answer, the defendants alleged they were immune from liability under the provisions of Iowa Code section 670.4(1)(k) (2016) (exempting a municipality from municipal liability for "[a] claim based upon or arising out of an act or omission in connection with an emergency response"). The parties filed dueling motions for summary judgment. The district court concluded that the defendants were immune from liability and granted summary judgment in their favor. The McClellans appealed.

         II. Scope and Standard of Review.

         We review the district court's grant of summary judgment for correction of errors at law. See Barker v. Capotosto, 875 N.W.2d 157, 161 (Iowa 2016). To succeed on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party must show the material facts are undisputed and, applying the law to those facts, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See id.; Nelson v. Lindaman, 867 N.W.2d 1, 6 (Iowa 2015). Therefore, our review is limited to two questions: (1) whether there is a genuine dispute regarding the existence of a material fact, and (2) whether the district court correctly applied the law to the undisputed facts. See Homan v. Branstad, 887 N.W.2d 153, 164 (Iowa 2016).

         III. ...


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