DENA JEAN BLAZEK, Administrator of the Estate of ADAM WILLIAM BLAZEK, Deceased; DENA JEAN BLAZEK, Individually, and as Next Friend of C.B. and A.B., Plaintiffs-Appellants,
CITY OF NEVADA, IOWA and CITY OF NEVADA, IOWA EMPLOYEES DOE, Defendants-Appellees.
from the Iowa District Court for Story County, James A.
plaintiffs appeal the district court's decision granting
the motion for summary judgment filed by the City of Nevada
and unnamed City of Nevada employees in a suit seeking money
damages for the death by suicide of Adam Blazek and the
conduct of City of Nevada police officers.
William T. Talbot of Newbrough Law Firm, LLP, Ames, for
C. Palmer, Thomas M. Boes, and Catherine M. Lucas of
Bradshaw, Fowler, Proctor & Fairgrave, P.C., Des Moines,
Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Potterfield and Doyle,
Blazek appeals the district court's decision granting the
motion for summary judgment filed by the City of Nevada and
unnamed City of Nevada employees in a suit seeking money
damages for the death by suicide of her husband, Adam Blazek,
and the conduct of City of Nevada police officers. Dena
brought the suit in her personal capacity and in her
representative capacities as the administrator of Adam's
estate and as next friend of C.B., Dena's child from a
previous marriage, and of A.B., Dena and Adam's
child. For the plaintiffs' tort-based causes
of action (claims I, II, III, and V), the district court
determined summary judgment was proper because the defendants
did not owe a duty to Adam, Dena, or the children
individually. For the plaintiffs' constitutional claims,
the district court determined summary judgment was proper
regardless of whether the claims were based on constitutional
torts brought under Godfrey v. State, 898 N.W.2d 844
(Iowa 2017) or substantive due process claims. On further
review, we conclude the district court properly granted
summary judgment on all claims.
Background Facts and Proceedings
facts pertinent to this appeal occurred within a
twenty-four-hour period. The parties stipulated to the facts
for the purpose of summary judgment. On the morning of
February 3, 2016, Adam was at the family's home with C.B.
and A.B., then thirteen and six years old respectively. Dena
was at work. The children were loudly playing and laughing in
C.B.'s bedroom when Adam came into the bedroom and told
them to be quiet. He then left the room. The children
continued to play loudly, and Adam returned and told them if
they would not be quiet, he would get his gun. A.B. responded
that they would call 911 if he did that, to which Adam
responded that they would be dead before the police showed
up. Adam then left the bedroom again, returning a short time
later with a handgun. Adam held the gun against his chest,
frightening the children. He left the room again, and C.B.
went into the bathroom to hide. She sent Dena a series of six
to eight text messages at around 10:40 a.m., telling Dena
what had happened.
noticed the messages around 11:00 a.m. and was shocked by
what she read. Adam had never threatened the children with
the gun before, nor had he taken the gun out in Dena's
presence before. Dena called C.B. and told her to get A.B.
and get out of the house. Dena then called her father, Phil,
who also lived in Nevada. She told Phil what had happened and
asked him take the children to his house. He told her he
would. C.B. tried to call Phil around this time, but Adam
took her phone while C.B. was making the call. Dena then
called Adam and told him her father would be picking the
children up. During this call, Adam smashed C.B.'s phone.
The children waited outside where Phil picked them up and
brought them back to his house.
then left work and travelled to Phil's house, where she
spoke with the children. Around 3:45 p.m., she and her cousin
Charlie traveled back to the Blazeks' home to gather the
children's clothing and other items. Adam was present
while they were there. Adam and Dena agreed to talk the next
day about what had happened. While Dena and Charlie were
leaving, Dena told Charlie she believed Adam would kill
himself. She based this belief on the "eerie"
feeling she had while at the home and on how calm Adam had
been while she was there with Charlie.
and Charlie returned to Phil's house. On the advice of a
family friend who was a retired police officer, Dena called
the Nevada Police Department. Dena told the 911 operator what
had happened, and the operator sent Officer Kelli Springer to
speak with Dena at Phil's house. Officer Springer spoke
with Dena, her parents, and the children. Dena told Officer
Springer she believed Adam was suicidal and asked Officer
Springer to perform a welfare check on Adam, which she agreed
to do. She also told Officer Springer that Adam worked in
Ames and would be leaving for work that night between 10:10
p.m. and 10:15 p.m. Dena warned Officer Springer Adam would
likely not open the door for the police. Officer Springer
told Dena the police would try to arrest Adam that night when
he got to work and, if they were unable to do so, they would
try again the next morning. Officer Springer advised Dena to
stay at Phil's house that night and that she would call
her if they arrested Adam that night. Dena agreed to stay at
Phil's house and wait for Officer Springer's call.
Officer Springer told Dena the police would arrest Adam for
child endangerment and aggravated assault.
Springer left Phil's house and went back to the police
department building. There, she conferred with other police
officers. The police determined the safest way to apprehend
Adam was to arrest him once he arrived at work. From 9:50
p.m. to 10:50 p.m. that night, three police officers waited
outside the Blazeks' home for Adam to come out. The
police officers never observed Adam leave the Blazeks'
around 3:15 a.m., the Nevada Fire Department received a call
about a fire at the Blazeks' home. The fire department
arrived at the home to find it engulfed in flames. Once the
fire was out, firefighters and police officers searched the
building and found Adam's body in the basement. His cause
of death was determined to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound
to the head. After an investigation, the police determined