United States District Court, D. Idaho
TIFFANY K. MURRAY and KEVIN C. MURRAY, husband and wife, Plaintiffs,
CITY OF BONNERS FERRY and JOEL MINOR, in his official and individual capacities, and JOHN LUNDE, in his official and individual capacities, and STEPHEN BOORMAN, in his official and individual capacities; and STEVEN BENKULA, in his official and individual capacities, ROBERT BOONE, in his official and individual capacities, and JOHN DOES I-V, and JANE DOES 1-V, Defendants.
DECISION AND ORDER RE: DEFENDANTS' AMENDED MOTION FOR
SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOCKET NOS. 34 AND 56) PLAINTIFFS'
MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE AN AMENDED COMPLAINT TO INCLUDE A
CLAIM FOR PUNITIVE DAMAGES AGAINST JOEL MINOR, STEVEN
BENKULA, ROBERT BOONE AND STEPHEN BOORMAN (DOCKET NO.
Ronald E. Bush, Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge
pending before the Court are (1) Defendants' Amended
Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket Nos. 34 and 56), and (2)
Plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint
to Include a Claim for Punitive Damages Against Joel Minor,
Steven Benkula, Robert Boone and Stephen Boorman (Docket No.
35). Having carefully considered the record, participated in
oral argument, and otherwise being fully advised, the Court
enters the following Memorandum Decision and Order:
Tiffany Murray began working for Defendant City of Bonners
Ferry (the “City”) as a police/patrol officer on
or about September 2, 2008. On May 29, 2014, she was fired.
The factual details occupying the space of Plaintiff's
employment with the City are vast and, more often than not,
conflicting - suffice it to say, there appear to be no warm
feelings between the relevant parties.
Plaintiff's description of those details are strident,
and reflected in the various causes of action listed within
her 53-page Complaint, including: (1) hostile work
environment; (2) quid pro quo sexual harassment; (3)
retaliation; (4) negligent hiring; (5) defamation; (6)
negligent training and supervision; and (7) breach of the
covenant of good faith and fair dealing. Plaintiff also
contends that the same allegations informing these causes of
action warrant a claim for punitive damages, and she moves to
amend her Complaint accordingly. For their part,
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment seeks the
dismissal of certain of these causes of action as a matter of
law. Defendants likewise oppose Plaintiff's efforts to
add a claim for punitive damages.
judgment is appropriate where a party can show that, as to
any claim or defense, “there is no genuine dispute as
to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment
as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). One of the
principal purposes of the summary judgment “is to
isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims . . .
.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323
(1986). It is “not a disfavored procedural shortcut,
” but is instead the “principal tool[ ] by which
factually insufficient claims or defenses [can] be isolated
and prevented from going to trial with the attendant
unwarranted consumption of public and private
resources.” Id. at 327. “[T]he mere
existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties
will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for
summary judgment.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). There must be a
genuine dispute as to any material fact - a fact
“that may affect the outcome of the case.”
Id. at 248.
evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party, and the court must not make credibility
findings. See id. at p. 255. Direct testimony of the
nonmovant must be believed, however implausible. See
Leslie v. Grupo ICA, 198 F.3d 1152, 1159 (9th
Cir. 1999). On the other hand, the court is not required to
adopt unreasonable inferences from circumstantial evidence.
See McLaughlin v. Liu, 849 F.2d 1205, 1208
(9th Cir. 1988).
moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the
absence of a genuine dispute as to material fact. See
Devereaux v. Abbey, 263 F.3d 1070, 1076 (9th
Cir. 2001). To carry this burden, the moving party need not
introduce any affirmative evidence (such as affidavits or
deposition excerpts) but may simply point out the absence of
evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. See
Fairbank v. Wunderman Cato Johnson, 212 F.3d 528, 532
(9thCir. 2000). This shifts the burden to the
non-moving party to produce evidence sufficient to support a
jury verdict in her favor. See Devereaux, 263 F.3d
at 1076. The non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings
and show “by her [ ] affidavits, or by the depositions,
answers to interrogatories, or admissions on file” that
a genuine dispute of material fact exists. Celotex,
477 U.S. at 324.
the court is “not required to comb through the record
to find some reason to deny a motion for summary
judgment.” Carmen v. San Francisco Unified Sch.
Dist., 237 F.3d 1026, 1029 (9th Cir. 2001).
Instead, the “party opposing summary judgment must
direct [the court's] attention to specific triable
facts.” Southern California Gas Co. v. City of
Santa Ana, 336 F.3d 885, 889 (9th Cir. 2003).
for punitive damages are governed by Idaho Code §
6-1604, which provides:
In any action seeking recovery of punitive damages, the
claimant must prove, by clear and convincing evidence,
oppressive, fraudulent, malicious or outrageous conduct by
the party against whom the claim for punitive damages is
I.C. § 6-1604(1).
to allow a claim of punitive damages is a substantive
question controlled by Idaho law. See Windsor v.
Guarantee Trust Life Ins. Co., 684 F.Supp. 630, 633 (D.
Idaho 1988). Ultimately, an award of punitive damages
requires a bad act and a bad state of mind. See Todd v.
Sullivan Const. LLC, 191 P.3d 196, 201 (Idaho 2008). The
defendant must (1) act in a manner that was an extreme
deviation from reasonable standards of conduct with an
understanding of - or disregard for - the likely
consequences, and must (2) act with an extremely harmful
state of mind, described variously as with malice,
oppression, fraud, or outrageousness. See Myers v.
Workmen's Auto Ins. Co., 95 P.3d 977, 983 (Idaho
2004); see also I.C. § 6-1604.
trial, the party alleging punitive damages must satisfy this
standard by clear and convincing evidence. See I.C.
§ 6-1604(1). However, for purposes of a motion to amend,
the party seeking to add a claim for punitive damages does
not need to meet this high burden; rather, the party need
only show “a reasonable likelihood of proving facts at
trial sufficient to support an award of punitive
damages.” See I.C. § 6-1604(2).
Therefore, although FRCP 15(a) encourages the trial court to
liberally grant motions to amend pleadings, this policy is
substantially tempered by the requirements under Idaho law.
That is, plaintiff may add a claim for punitive damages only
if they establish a reasonable likelihood of proving, by
clear and convincing evidence, that the defendant's
conduct was oppressive, fraudulent, malicious, or outrageous.
plaintiffs are only required to demonstrate a
“reasonable likelihood” of establishing their
entitlement to punitive damages, on motions to amend to
assert a claim for punitive damages under Idaho Code §
6-1604(2), courts apply the same standard it would apply in
resolving an FRCP 50 motion at the close of plaintiffs'
case. See Bryant v. Colonial Sur. Co., 2016 WL
707339, *3 (D. Idaho 2016). That is, evidence is viewed in
the light most favorable to plaintiffs, with the benefit of
all legitimate inferences without assessing credibility.
See id. (citing E.E.O.C. v. Go Daddy Software,
Inc., 581 F.3d 951, 961 (9th Cir. 2009)).
in the trial court's discretion to decide whether to
submit the punitive damages issue to the jury. See
Manning v. Twin Falls Clinic & Hosp., Inc., 830 P.2d
1185, 1190 (Idaho 1992). As a matter of substantive law, it
is well established in Idaho that punitive damages are not
favored and should be awarded only in the most unusual and
compelling circumstances, and are to be awarded cautiously
and within narrow limits. See id. at 1185; see
also Jones v. Panhandle Distribs., Inc., 792 P.2d 315
(Idaho 1990); Soria v. Sierra Pac. Airlines, Inc.,
726 P.2d 706 (Idaho 1986); Cheney v. Palos Verdes Inv.
Corp., 665 P.2d 661 (Idaho 1983); Linscott v.
Rainier Nat'l Life Ins. Co., 606 P.2d 958 (Idaho
Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket Nos. 34
Hostile Work Environment Claim
survive summary judgment on her hostile work environment
claim, Plaintiff must raise genuine issues of material fact
that (1) she was subjected to verbal or physical harassment
due to her gender, (2) the harassment was unwelcome, and (3)
the harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter
the conditions of the plaintiff's employment and create
an abusive work environment. See Kortan v. California
Youth Authority, 217 F.3d 1104, 1110 (9th
Cir. 2000). Plaintiff must show that the conduct at issue was
both objectively and subjectively offensive; that is, she
must show that a reasonable person would find the work
environment to be “hostile or abusive, ” and that
she in fact did perceive it to be so. Faragher v. City of
Boca Raton, 524 U.S. 775, 787 (1998). In that
regard, courts are to “determine whether an environment
is sufficiently hostile or abusive by looking at all the
circumstances, including the frequency of the discriminatory
conduct; its severity; whether it is physically threatening
or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; and whether it
unreasonably interferes with an employee's work
performance.” Id. at 777-78 (internal
quotation and citation omitted). “Title VII does not
prohibit genuine but innocuous differences in the ways men
and women routinely interact with members of the same sex and
of the opposite sex.” Id. (internal quotation
and citation omitted). “[S]imple teasing, offhand
comments, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious)
will not amount to discriminatory changes in the terms and
conditions of employment.” Id. (internal
quotation and citation omitted).
her Complaint, Plaintiff originally identified several
circumstances which the Court presumes are part of what she
contends contributed to her hostile work environment claim,
• On November 3, 2010, Defendant Sergeant John Lunde
falsely accused Plaintiff of breaking city equipment,
specifically the audio microphone that officers wear while on
• On November 6, 2011, Sergeant Lunde made a statement
to other employees of the City that Plaintiff was an
• In November 2011, Sergeant Lunde looked through
Plaintiff's personal hiring file without authorization,
in violation of City policy;
• The City did not take the steps necessary to ensure
that Plaintiff's hiring file was secure from unauthorized
access, and this damaged Plaintiff;
• In July 2012, Sergeant Lunde did an internal affairs
investigation of Plaintiff without a formal complaint, in
violation of City policy;
• Plaintiff's complaints to the Chief of Police
(Rick Alonzo and, later, Defendant Steven Benkula) were
either ignored or inadequately investigated;
• On June 30, 2013, Sergeant Lunde sent an email to all
police officers in the city, using every police officer's
proper name, but referred to Plaintiff as “Six Pack
• Plaintiff was isolated from the rest of the City's
employees, drawing negative attention to her;
• On August 5, 2013, Sergeant Lunde gained access to
Plaintiff's protected medical information and sent that
information to a third party; and
• The City took insufficient steps to security
Plaintiff's protected medical information.
Compl., ¶¶ 38-73 (Docket No. 5). Though some of
these instances are undoubtedly unsavory, it cannot be said
as a matter of law that they - either singularly or in
combination - reflect an objectively hostile work environment
under Title VII. Plaintiff does not appear to disagree,
relying instead on other events - involving
altogether different actors - alleged elsewhere in her
Complaint. See, e.g., Pls.' Opp. to MSJ, pp. 8-9
(Docket No. 41) (to exclusion of Sergeant Lunde, stating:
“The actions of Deputy Chief Minor, Chief Benkula,
Chief Boone, the City Administrator, City Attorney and City
Clerk created this hostile work environment.”). In this
evolving respect, Plaintiff states:
• Defendant Joel Minor, Assistant Chief of Police and
Plaintiff's direct supervisor, made many sexual advances,
• Squeezing Plaintiff's buttocks;
• Placing his hand on Plaintiff's breasts, pulling
the front of Plaintiff's uniform, and peering at her
breasts, and saying that Plaintiff has nice breasts;
• Recounting dreams involving sex and sexual positions
• Asking to have sex with Plaintiff;
• Asking Plaintiff to sit on his face; and
• Telling Plaintiff that pregnant women are sexy, while
Plaintiff was pregnant.
• Assistant Chief Minor watched pornography (including
pregnant women having sex) during work hours in
Plaintiff's presence and attempted to show Plaintiff
pornography during work hours;
• Chief Benkula knew, or should have known, that
Assistant Chief Minor was engaging in sexual harassment, but
• In June 2013, Defendant Stephen Boorman, as the City
Administrator, falsely made allegations regarding Plaintiff,
stating that she was trying to file a false claim of work
injury in order to get time off work;
• City Administrator Boorman (with an office in City
Hall, along with the Police Department) allowed the
display of two sex dolls - an African American female and a
sheep - in a City shop under his control;
• City Administrator Boorman allowed the display of
racist and sexist pictures in a City shop under his control,
• A picture of President Obama, sitting next to his
wife, photo-shopped to include a white man holding his
undivided attention with a banana;
• A picture of a man engaging in mock bestiality with a
• A picture displaying an Arabic word translated into