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Stoddart v. Pocatello School District #25

September 20, 2010

ANNA STODDART, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF CASSIE JO STODDART; ANDREW STODDART; VICTOR PRICE; FRANK CONTRERAS AND ALLISON SERR- CONTRERAS, HUSBAND AND WIFE; DYLAN CONTRERAS; SHELBY MC CLUSKEY AND CHEYENNE MC CLUSKEY, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
POCATELLO SCHOOL DISTRICT #25; POCATELLO HIGH SCHOOL; DOES 1- XX, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS. AND KERRY DRAPER AND PAMELA DRAPER, HUSBAND AND WIFE, DEFENDANTS.



Appeal from the District Court of the Sixth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Bannock County. Hon. David C. Nye, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Horton, Justice

2010 Opinion No. 99

The decision of the district court is affirmed.

This case arises from the shocking murder of Cassie Jo Stoddart (Cassie Jo) by Brian Draper (Draper) and Torey Adamcik (Adamcik) in September 2006. The Stoddart family (the Stoddarts), together with the Contreras Family (the Contrerases) (in whose house Cassie Jo was murdered), (collectively "the Plaintiffs") brought this suit, advancing claims against the Pocatello School District (the School District) for wrongful death, negligent and/or intentional infliction of emotional distress and for property loss and loss of property value. These claims are predicated upon the School District‟s alleged failure to take necessary action to protect Cassie Jo despite warnings that Draper and Adamcik planned a "Columbine-like" shooting.

The district court granted the School District‟s motion for summary judgment and entered judgment dismissing the action against the School District. The Plaintiffs have timely appealed from that judgment. We affirm.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On February 17, 2004, approximately two and a half years prior to Cassie Jo‟s murder, a student reported that Draper and another student, C.N., were planning a school shooting. The report was based upon statements made by C.N. in the course of repeated telephone conversations occurring on February 14, 2007, with two girls, G.D. and M.B. G.D. recorded a portion of one conversation in which C.N. stated, "going to have a school shooting on Tuesday, 17th, 2004." After G.D. brought the threat to the attention of officials at Irving Middle School, the principal and the School Resource Officer (SRO) called C.N. into the principal‟s office where he was confronted with the recording. C.N. denied any intention to bring a weapon to school or to participate in a school shooting. The SRO then went to Draper‟s home and interviewed Draper and his mother. Draper‟s mother checked her caller ID and found that three telephone calls had been placed from that phone to G.D. Draper stated that C.N. had made the recorded statement after G.D. "begged" him to repeat the statement about a school shooting. The following day, the principal and the SRO brought G.D., M.B., C.N. and Draper into the principal‟s office for a one-hour discussion of the matter. C.N. and Draper were warned and agreed not to make any such statements again, even in a joking manner.

Approximately one month later, another group of students reported that C.N. and Draper were planning a school shooting, this time to occur at a school dance. They reported that C.N. had stated that he, Draper, and another boy had made this plan at a previous dance and had walked through the dance pretending to shoot people. The principal and SRO interviewed C.N. C.N. initially denied any knowledge of the matter. As the interview continued, C.N. claimed that Draper and the other boy wanted to commit a school shooting at the next dance and that Draper and the other boy had walked through an earlier dance acting out a shooting, pretending to use firearms and identifying locations that could be used. C.N. stated that Draper was obsessed with Columbine and that Draper had "pictures of people with knives and guns and different killers hanging on the walls of his bedroom, as well as letters about the Columbine shooting incident." The SRO interviewed Draper about the matter, in the presence of the principal and Draper‟s mother. Draper claimed that he and the other boys had walked through the dance using imaginary paintball guns. Draper‟s mother denied that Draper had any posters on his wall depicting weapons or "evil looking pictures."

C.N. was referred for psychological counseling and transferred to an alternative school. The principal has since stated that, based on the disposition of the investigations, "we must have felt that [Draper] was not a threat." Draper‟s school disciplinary records did not mention either of the reports or the subsequent investigation.

In September 2006, another student, S.C., who was assigned to share a locker with Draper, found several notes between Draper and Adamcik. She viewed these notes as threatening and remembers the word "death" in them, but can remember little more about them. S.C. showed one of the notes to her mother that asked "when are we going to do this?" Her mother recalls seeing the note, although she does not recall its content. Because S.C. was upset, her mother encouraged her to bring the notes to the attention of school officials. S.C. brought the notes to the attention of the SRO and vice-principal who "dismissed [her] concerns."*fn1

On September 22, 2006, the same day Cassie Jo was murdered, Draper and Adamcik made a video recording of themselves talking about their plans to kill Cassie Jo and to carry out a Columbine-style shooting. That night, Draper and Adamcik entered the Contrerases‟ house and stabbed Cassie Jo to death. Draper and Adamcik were arrested, tried, and found guilty of Cassie Jo‟s murder.

On January 31, 2008, the Stoddarts and the Contererases filed a complaint alleging that Draper and his parents, Adamcik and his parents, and the School District were liable to them for Cassie Jo‟s wrongful death, infliction of emotional distress, and property damage and loss of property value.

The School District moved for summary judgment, arguing that the School District did not owe Cassie Jo a duty of care under the circumstances, that the School District was immune from liability under I.C. § 6-904A, and that the School District was not jointly and severally liable for the acts of Draper and Adamcik.

Following a hearing, the district court issued a memorandum decision granting the School District‟s motion. The court found that because the murder occurred off school grounds and after school hours, the School District owed no duty to Cassie Jo at the time of her murder. The court further found that, even if the School District had a duty to supervise Cassie Jo or her killers, the immunity afforded the School District by I.C. § 6-904A would bar recovery. Finally, the court ruled that the School District would not be jointly and severally liable with the co-defendants for the damages suffered by the Plaintiffs. The district court thereafter entered a judgment consistent with its memorandum decision. The Plaintiffs now appeal the decision of the district court regarding duty and immunity; they do not challenge the district court‟s determination regarding joint and several liability.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

When reviewing a motion for summary judgment, this Court uses the same standard employed by the trial court when deciding such a motion. Kolln v. Saint Luke's Regl. Med. Ctr., 130 Idaho 323, 327, 940 P.2d 1142, 1146 (1997). Summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, depositions, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." I.R.C.P. 56(c). "The burden is on the moving party to prove an absence of genuine issues of material fact." Rees v. State, Dep't of Health and Welfare, 143 Idaho 10, 14, 137 P.3d 397, 401 (2006). This Court views the facts and inferences in the record in favor of the non-moving party. Evans v. Griswold, 129 ...


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