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Kucirek v. Jared

United States District Court, D. Idaho

September 5, 2018

CARLA DANIELLE GROSSKLAUS KUCIREK, Personal Representative for the Estate and Heirs of Theresa Ann Grossklaus deceased, Plaintiff,


          Candy W. Dale, U.S. Magistrate Judge


         Pending before the Court is Defendants' motion for partial summary judgment. (Dkt. 24.) The parties have fully briefed the motion and the Court considered oral arguments on the motion on August 23, 2018. For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant the motion in part and deny it in part.


         On July 18, 2014, Theresa Grossklaus was riding her bicycle east on U.S. Highway 12 near Orofino, Idaho. (Dkt. 1 ¶ 10; Dkt. 25 at 1.) At the same time, Clearwater County Deputy Sheriff Mitchell B. Jared was driving east on the highway in an unmarked patrol vehicle. (Dkt. 10 ¶ 11.) Deputy Jared's vehicle hit the bicycle from behind, and Grossklaus's body was propelled from the bike and struck by the still-moving patrol vehicle. Id. at ¶ 20. Grossklaus was pronounced dead at the scene due to injuries sustained from blunt force trauma to her head, torso, and extremities. Id.; Dkt. 32-3 at 2.

         The incident occurred at approximately 10:13 a.m. on a day with clear visibility and dry road conditions. (Dkt. 26 at 2.) Plaintiff's expert witness concluded Deputy Jared's patrol vehicle was traveling at a speed of at least 52 miles per hour, plus or minus 5.4 miles per hour at impact. (Dkt. 29 at 2-3.) The posted speed limit for this section of Highway 12 is 50 miles per hour. Id. Plaintiff's expert witness determined also Grossklaus was riding the bicycle within 1.1 feet from the roadway's fog line at the time of impact. Id. She was wearing a bicycle helmet. (Dkt. 32-5 at 2.)

         Three officers from the Idaho State Police were dispatched to the reported collision. (Dkt. 32-3 at 2.) The Clearwater County chief deputy and Orofino police sergeant also arrived on scene. Id. Ms. Grossklaus's body was taken into custody by the county coroner.

         The coroner's report concluded Ms. Grossklaus purposefully rode into the path of the patrol vehicle-and the manner of her death was suicide. (Dkt. 32-5 at 5.) The coroner's conclusion was based in part on information that, just days prior to the incident, Ms. Grossklaus was discharged from State Hospital North in Orofino, Idaho. Id. She was involuntarily admitted to the psychiatric unit after driving her vehicle into a tree in an attempt to injure herself. Id. The involuntary admission was the second within a week's time based on attempts to crash a vehicle with the goal of self-harm. Id. In addition to this evidence, other drivers who passed Ms. Grossklaus on Highway 12 just before the incident stated she had been weaving out into traffic. Id.; 32-6 at 1. One driver stated he had to swerve around Ms. Grossklaus to avoid her. Id.

         Plaintiff's expert witness, however, determined the manner of death was “most appropriately classified as an accident.” (Dkt. 32-7 at 4.) The expert's conclusion was based in part on the fact that a full autopsy was not performed on Ms. Grossklaus's body. Plaintiff's expert witness opined, without full autopsy information, it is impossible to determine whether Ms. Grossklaus had potentially suffered an intracranial event, such as a stroke or tumor-resulting in her sporadic moment into traffic. Id. at 5. Plaintiff's expert witness stated also that, although Ms. Grossklaus recently had suicidal ideation, there was no evidence to suggest she was suicidal at the time of the incident. Id.

         Regardless of the manner of death, Plaintiff's expert witness opined the cause of death was clear: the impact from Deputy Jared's vehicle. The expert witness concluded that had Deputy Jared “properly monitored the roadway and observed the bicycle that was present, ” he would have had “ample time and distance to safely move around the bicycle and avoid impact whether the bicycle was weaving or not.” (Dkt. 32-10 at 1.)


         On July 15, 2016, Carla Danielle Grossklaus Kucirek, the personal representative for the estate and heirs of Theresa Ann Grossklaus (“Plaintiff”), filed a complaint in the District Court of the Second Judicial District of Idaho. Amended on December 23, 2016, Plaintiff's complaint asserts three claims: first, Ms. Grossklaus's death was the result of Deputy Jared's negligence, carelessness, reckless, and grossly negligent conduct; second, as employers of Deputy Jared, Defendants Clearwater County, Clearwater County Sheriff's Department, and the Clearwater County Sheriff, failed and neglected to ensure Deputy Jared was properly trained; and third, Defendants' careless and negligent actions and omissions violated Ms. Grossklaus's constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         In addition to naming Deputy Jared, Clearwater County, Clearwater County Sheriff's Department, and the Clearwater County Sheriff as Defendants, Plaintiff named Deputy Jared's wife, Julie A. Jared. Notably, Mrs. Jared is not specifically mentioned in any of the claims, nor is she mentioned in facts beyond being identified as Deputy Jared's spouse. During the oral argument, Plaintiff's attorney stated Mrs. Jared was included as a party to address potential issues related to community property laws and damages.

         Defendants removed this case to the Court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441. (Dkt. 1.) Defendants filed the present motion for partial summary judgment, (Dkt. 24.) Plaintiff filed a response, (Dkt. 26) and Defendants filed a reply. (Dkt. 33.) The Court permitted Plaintiff to file a sur-reply and supplemental briefing to address new issues raised in Defendants reply, to which Defendants responded in turn. (Dkts. 39 and 40.)

         In the pending motion, Defendants seek summary judgment on all claims except state law-based negligence claims asserted against Clearwater County. Specifically, Defendants argue they are entitled to summary judgment on the following claims:

(1) The 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against Deputy Jared because his negligence in operating the patrol vehicle was not the type that rises to the level of a constitutional violation under the Due Process Clause;[1]
(2) The 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against Clearwater County, Clearwater County Sherriff's Department, and the Clearwater County Sheriff, because Plaintiff has not alleged a custom, policy, or practice was the moving force behind Grossklaus's death and Plaintiff's injury;
(3) The state law negligence claims against Deputy Jared and the Sheriff in their capacities as law enforcement officers, because Plaintiff failed to post a bond as required by Idaho Code § 6-610 before filing an action against these two law enforcement officers;
(4) The state law claims against Clearwater County, Clearwater County Sheriff's Department, and the Clearwater County Sheriff for negligent employment and training, because employers cannot be held liable for negligent employment and training when vicariously liable for the employee's torts; and
(5) The claims against Julie A. Jared, because Plaintiff failed to allege Mrs. Jared engaged in conduct related to the incident and thus there is no basis in law or fact to establish vicarious liability.

          The Court will address Defendants' arguments regarding these claims below.


         1. Motions for Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate where a party can show, 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 summary judgment “is to isolate and dispose of factually unsupported claims....” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). It is “not a disfavored procedural shortcut, ” but is instead a tool to prevent factually insufficient claims or defenses “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; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

         The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. 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- and may simply point out the absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case. Fairbank v. Wunderman Cato Johnson, 212 F.3d 528, 532 (9th Cir. 2000). This shifts the burden to the non-moving party to produce evidence sufficient to support a jury verdict in its favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256-57. The non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and show “by [its] affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, or admissions on file” a genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324.

         The party bearing the burden of proof at trial “must establish beyond controversy every essential element of its ... claim.” S. Cal. Gas Co. v. City of Santa Ana, 336 F.3d 885, 889 (9th Cir. 2003). A party who does not have the burden “may rely on a showing that a party who does have the trial burden cannot produce admissible evidence to carry its burden as to the fact.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(B) (advisory committee's note.) And the “party opposing summary judgment must direct [the Court's] attention to specific triable facts.” S. Cal. Gas Co., 336 F.3d at 889.


         Plaintiff raises both state and federal claims in this action. The Court will address the merits of the motion as it applies to ...

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