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Ohlson-Townsend v. Wolf

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Western Division

December 5, 2019

LORI OHLSON-TOWNSEND and MICHAEL TOWNSEND, wife and husband, Plaintiffs,
v.
ALEC WOLF, JEROD CLYDE, and, CHEROKEE COUNTY, Defendants.

          ORDER

          C.J. WILLIAMS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         TABLE OF CONTENTS

         I. BACKGROUND ............................................................................ 1

         II. APPLICABLE LAW ....................................................................... 4

         A. Summary Judgment Standard ..................................................... 4

         B. Qualified Immunity ................................................................. 6

         III. ANALYSIS ................................................................................... 7

         A. False Arrest .......................................................................... 7

         1. Lori's Claim under Section 1983 ......................................... 8

         a. Violation of a Constitutional Right .............................. 8

         b. Qualified Immunity ............................................... 12

         2. Lori's Claim under the Iowa Constitution ............................. 14

         a. Violation of a Constitutional Right ............................. 14

         b. Qualified Immunity ............................................... 15

         B. Unresisted Claims .................................................................. 16

         1. Failure to Train and/or Supervise ....................................... 17

         2. Respondeat Superior ...................................................... 18

         3. Loss of Consortium ........................................................ 19

         4. Emotional Distress, Reputational Harm, and Other Claims ........ 20

         C. Punitive Damages .................................................................. 21

         IV. CONCLUSION ............................................................................. 23

         This matter is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgement filed by defendants Deputy Sheriff Alec Wolf (“Deputy Wolf”), Sheriff Jerod Clyde (“Sheriff Clyde”), and Cherokee County.[1] (Doc. 24). Plaintiffs Lori Ohlson-Townsend (“Lori”) and Michael Townsend (“Michael”) timely filed a resistance. (Doc. 25). Defendants timely filed a reply, which they later supplemented. (Docs. 29; 30). For the following reasons, defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is granted in part and denied in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Lori was formerly married to Kent Ohlson (“Kent”). (Doc. 24-2, at 2). As part of their divorce, Lori and Kent agreed to continue to operate their turkey farm together as co-owners. (Id.). Lori and Kent argued over text messages about business dealings and planning their daughter's wedding. (Docs. 25-1, at 4; 30, at 2). On July 19, 2018, Kent sent Lori the following text: “Lori, please do not contact me at all. If there is any business questions or concerns you have please contact my lawyer Dan Connell. Thank you. Kent.” (Docs. 24-3, at 19).

         On July 26, 2018, Shannon Ohlson (“Shannon”), Lori and Kent's daughter-in-law, called the Cherokee County Sheriff's Department and reported that Lori was harassing Kent. (Id., at 22). Cherokee County Deputy Wolf took the report, noting that Lori texted Kent after Kent's July 19, 2018 request that Lori direct all communication to Kent's attorney. (Id.). Specifically, Deputy Wolf noted that Lori sent Kent one text on July 25, 2018, and three texts on July 26, 2018. (Id.). On July 31, 2018, Shannon left a voice message for Deputy Wolf informing him that Lori sent Kent two additional texts on July 27, 2018.[2] (Docs. 24-3, at 22; 25-3, at 13).

         On July 31, 2018, Deputy Wolf filed a Complaint and Affidavit with the Cherokee County Clerk of Court against Lori for Harassment - Third Degree. (Docs. 24-3, at 25-26). In his affidavit, Deputy Wolf claimed that Lori harassed Kent through text messages on July 25, 26, and 27, 2018. (Doc. 24-3, at 26). Specifically, Deputy Wolf wrote under “State all facts and persons relied upon supporting elements of alleged crime”:

THE DEFENDANT LORI MICHELLE OHLSON-TOWNSEND DID HARASS KENT OLSON BY COMMUNICATING BY TEXT MESSAGE ON 7-25, 7-26 AND 7-27, 2018. LORI IS THE EX WIFE OF KENT AND HAS BEEN TOLD BY MYSELF TO CEASE CONTACT WITH KENT. LORI HAS NO LEGITIMATE REASON TO COMMUNICATE WITH KENT.

(Id.). Under headings titled “General Probable Cause, Defendant Implicated, ” Deputy Wolf typed: “caught in act . . . other physical evidence” and identified below that the “other physical evidence” was text messages. (Id.) (original text in all capitals).

         On August 1, 2018, Magistrate Judge Joshua Walsh (“Judge Walsh”) issued an Order for Warrant against Lori. (Doc. 24-3, at 34-35). That same day, Deputy Wolf composed his investigate notes, which stated:

On 7-26-18 I took a report of harassment that occurred in Cherokee County. The reporting party, Shannon . . ., stated that . . . Kent . . . was receiving harassing text messages from his ex-wife. His ex-wife is Lori . . . and they have been separated for some time. The messages are related to a turkey farm, which Kent owns, and Lori has no connection to. The text messages were sent by Lori to Kent on the following dates and times. On 7-25-18 at 2146 hours, 7-26-18 at 0957, 1005 and 1006 hours. Messages were also sent on 7-27-18 at 0622 and 0952 hours. Shannon and Kent have told Lori in the past that they do not want to speak to her and that Lori needs to stop sending Kent text messages.

(Id., at 22) (original text in all capitals). In his notes, Deputy Wolf stated that he left Lori a voicemail on July 26, 2018, instructing her to stop sending Kent text messages, but Lori never replied. (Id.). On August 1, 2018, Deputy Wolf stated that he contacted Kent who reported that Lori had sent him one text that morning. (Id.).

         On August 2, 2018, Lori turned herself in at the Storm Lake Police Department where she was booked and released. (Id., at 36). That same day, Judge Walsh issued a No. Contact Order against Lori, prohibiting her from contacting Kent. (Id., at 38-41). On August 3, 2018, Lori filed an initial appearance and pled not guilty. (Id., at 42). On September 20, 2018, the parties agreed to dismiss the charge on the condition that Lori pay $37.50 in court costs and the Cherokee County Attorney dismissed the charge. (Id., at 45-46).

         On October 12, 2018, Lori and her husband Michael filed a Petition at Law and Jury Demand in the Iowa District Court in and for Cherokee County against defendants. (Id., at 47-49). On November 14, 2018, plaintiffs amended their petition. (Doc. 4). In their amended petition, plaintiffs assert that Deputy Wolf falsely stated that he contacted Lori on July 26, 2018, and advised her to cease communications with Kent, that Cherokee County Sheriff Clyde failed to properly train and supervise Deputy Wolf, and that Cherokee County is liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior. (Id.). Plaintiffs also claim that defendants' actions were “willful and wanton, ” thus warranting punitive damages. (Id., at 6). Michael also requested “loss of consortium as a result of the damages” to Lori. (Id.). On November 19, 2018, defendants removed the case to this Court based on their belief that plaintiffs intended to assert a false arrest claim under Title 42, United States Code, Section 1983 (“Section 1983”). (Docs. 1; 24-2, at 5).

         II. ...


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