Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Sadler v. Primus

Court of Appeals of Iowa

September 11, 2019

MELISSA SADLER, Individually, and as Parent and Next Friend of S.S., A.S., Z.S., and I.S., Minor Children, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
POLLY PRIMUS and PATHWAYS BEHAVIORAL SERVICES, INC., Defendants-Appellees.

          Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Butler County, Linda M. Fangman, Judge.

         Melissa Sadler appeals an adverse summary judgment ruling and dismissal of her civil suit.

          John G. Daufeldt of Daufeldt Law Firm, P.L.C., Conroy, for appellants.

          Jason T. Madden and Caroline K. Bettis of Bradshaw, Fowler, Proctor & Fairgrave, P.C., Des Moines, for appellees.

          Considered by Mullins, P.J., Bower, J., and Vogel, S.J. [*]

          Mullins, Presiding Judge.

         In March 2017, Melissa Sadler, individually, and as parent and next friend of her four minor children, filed a petition at law against several parties, including Polly Primus and Pathways Behavioral Services, Inc. (Pathways defendants), forwarding allegations of improper actions or failures to act in child-in-need-of-assistance (CINA) proceedings.[1] The claims against the Pathways defendants included (1) failure to report child abuse or interfering with the reporting of child abuse, (2) professional malpractice, and (3) infliction of emotional distress. In the coming months, Sadler dismissed her claims against the CASA and the prosecutors. Thereafter, trial was scheduled for August 21, 2018. In November 2017, the district court granted the DHS defendants' motion to dismiss. Sadler appealed this ruling.

         On March 23, 2018, while the appeal was pending, the Pathways defendants filed a motion for summary judgment on a number of grounds. The Pathways defendants argued, among other things, because Sadler failed to timely designate expert witnesses, she should therefore be barred from presenting expert testimony, and, consequently, she could not establish her claims as a matter of law. The GAL filed a motion for summary judgment a few days later. On April 5, almost two weeks after the Pathways defendants moved for summary judgment, Sadler filed a disclosure of her expert witness. On April 9, at 10:41 a.m., the court entered an order granting the pending motions for summary judgment. In its order, the court noted, "More than ten (10) days has passed and no Resistance has been filed." The court granted summary judgment as to the Pathways defendants and the GAL as follows: "The Court, having reviewed all of the evidence provided with the motions for summary judgment and the fact no resistance to the motions for summary judgment were filed find the Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law."[2] Fifteen minutes after the court filed its order, Sadler filed motions to continue trial and the deadline to disclose expert witnesses. In the late afternoon, Sadler filed a motion to extend her deadline to file a resistance to the Pathways defendants' motion for summary judgment. On April 11, the court denied the motion to extend the time for filing a resistance to the motion for summary judgment, stating:

The Motion for Summary Judgment was filed on March 23, 2018. Pursuant to Rule 1.981(3) "a party resisting the motion shall file a resistance within 15 days, unless otherwise ordered by the court . . . [.]" Therefore, a resistance must have been filed by April 9, 2018, and no resistance was filed and no extension had been granted.

         On April 19, Sadler filed a motion to reconsider the orders granting summary judgment and denying the request for an extension to resist summary judgment and additionally requesting a ruling on the motion to extend the expert-witness deadline. Therein, Sadler argued the April 9 order granting summary judgment was premature because it was filed before the deadline to resist as stated in Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 1.981(3), the motion should not have been granted on the merits, and the court should grant Sadler's motion to extend the expert-witness deadline. On April 24, Sadler supplemented her motion, forwarding challenges to the merits of the other grounds asserted in the Pathways defendants' motion for summary judgment. On June 13, the court summarily denied the motions. A week later, the detective filed a motion for summary judgment. Soon, Sadler dismissed the detective as a defendant. On July 10, the court entered an order dismissing the case, as the detective was the last remaining defendant. At this time, the propriety of the district court's grant of the DHS defendants' motion to dismiss was still pending on appeal. Again, Sadler appealed.

         On appeal, Sadler argues the court (1) improperly failed to allow her fifteen days to respond to the defendants' motion for summary judgment, (2) lacked jurisdiction to entertain the motion when an appeal was pending, (3) abused its discretion in denying her motion to extend expert-witness deadlines, and (4) erred by dismissing the lawsuit when an appeal was pending concerning the propriety of a motion to dismiss granted in favor of other defendants.

         We first consider whether the district court had jurisdiction to rule on the Pathways defendants' summary judgment motion while an appeal was pending concerning the propriety of dismissal of the action against the DHS defendants. We agree with Sadler that, "[a]s a general rule, a district court loses jurisdiction of the merits of a controversy once an appeal is perfected." State v. Formaro, 638 N.W.2d 720, 726 (Iowa 2002); accord Freer v. DAC, Inc., 929 N.W.2d 685, 688 (Iowa 2019). "An exception to this rule, however, permits the district court to retain jurisdiction over disputes that are collateral to the subject matter of the appeal." Formaro, 638 N.W.2d at 726. The district court is allowed to "resolve matters outside the issues on appeal." Id. The pending appeal only concerned the propriety of the court's ruling on the DHS defendants' motion to dismiss. See generally Sadler v. Iowa Dep't of Human Servs., No. 17-1970, 2019 WL 1752651 (Iowa Ct. App. Apr. 17, 2019), further review denied (Aug. 21, 2019). Summary judgment as to the Pathways defendants is clearly a matter outside of the issues that were pending on appeal and, consequently, we conclude the court had jurisdiction to entertain the motion. See Formaro, 638 N.W.2d at 726.

         We turn to Sadler's argument that the court erred in ruling on the summary judgment motion without providing her the full fifteen days to file a resistance. Iowa Rule of Civil Procedure 1.981(3) affords a party "15 days, unless otherwise ordered by the court," to resist a motion for summary judgment. While we agree with Sadler that she should have been allowed the full fifteen days, we find the error harmless because, for the following reasons, we conclude the Pathways defendants would have ultimately been entitled to judgment as a matter of law, regardless of whether she was afforded an opportunity to file a resistance, upon their argument that Sadler could not formulate a prima facie case of tort liability as to a licensed professional for failing to timely disclose her expert witness.[3]

         This brings us to Sadler's argument that the court abused its discretion in denying her motion to extend expert-witness deadlines. Sadler makes no argument that any of her claims against the Pathways defendants did not require expert testimony. Indeed, all of Sadler's claims against the Pathways defendants concern alleged breaches of professional duties. We review a denial of a motion to extend expert-witness deadlines for an abuse of discretion, our most deferential standard of review. See Hill v. McCartney, 590 N.W.2d 52, 54 (Iowa Ct. App. 1998); see also State v. Roby, 897 N.W.2d 127, 137 (Iowa 2017). "Trial courts have broad discretion in ruling on whether to extend the time allowed for parties to designate expert witnesses under ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.