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Mansfield v. United States

United States District Court, D. Idaho

December 16, 2019

MARK L. MANSFIELD and THERESA A. MANSFIELD, individually, and on behalf of their minor child CM, Plaintiffs,




         The Court has before it a motion for partial summary judgment filed by the Government. The Court heard oral argument on December 13, 2019, and granted the motion from the bench. This decision will supplement the Court's oral ruling.


         On March 16, 2017, plaintiff CM, a minor child, and his dog Kasey were playing in the area about 300 yards from their home. CM saw what looked like a pipe protruding from the ground. He did not know that the “pipe” was an M/44 cyanide bomb placed by the Government to kill wolves and coyotes that might be preying on livestock. No. warning signs were installed. CM pulled on the device and it exploded, spraying cyanide on CM's face, left eye, left arm, and his legs and his chest, leaving an orange powdery residue on him. The explosion also sprayed cyanide on Kasey. While CM survived the incident, the dog died. The family - CM and Mark Mansfield, his father, and Theresa Mansfield, his mother - filed this lawsuit to recover damages for their injuries. The Government has agreed not to contest negligence and the remaining issues are causation and damages.

         The Government's motion for partial summary judgment seeks to dismiss “all personal injury claims, all claims arising from Plaintiffs' fear of future injury, all intentional infliction of emotional distress claims, and all of Mark and Theresa Mansfield's negligent infliction of emotional distress claims.” See Motion (Dkt. No. 29).


         Personal Injury Claims - Claims for Damages for Cyanide Exposure

         The Court will first address the Government's motion seeking to dismiss the personal injury claims based on cyanide exposure. Those personal injuries include CM's migraine headaches, and vomiting, that started after the incident. The record indicates that, initially, he suffered from migraine headaches every 5 to 6 days, but currently is experiencing them every 2 to 3 weeks. CM is taking medication for the headaches which make it harder for him to pay attention so that he has to work harder in school. He also has suffered from numbness in his left hand and forearm, and has nightmares where he experiences the event again and again. Also, at times both of his eyes get red and burn.

         There is no dispute that cyanide can kill or, in lesser doses, cause physical ailments such as headaches. There is also no dispute that CM was exposed to cyanide and there are at least questions of fact over the parents' exposure: Theresa Mansfield reached down the throat of the convulsing Kelsey thinking he might be choking and then held him in her lap; Mark Mansfield carried Kelsey down the hill to their driveway getting bloody slobber on himself.

         The issue is whether this cyanide exposure caused any ailments. At the hearing, plaintiffs alleged for the first time that a medical record from a treating physician contains the necessary expert testimony to show that the cyanide exposure caused their ailments. This argument was not contained in the briefing. The medical record was prepared by a Dr. M. Elizabeth Gerard, who appears to be a neurologist. The record relied on by plaintiffs is dated March 30, 2017, and was prepared following Dr. Gerard's exam of CM. It states that

[h]is exam is normal. It is likely the symptoms he has experienced are from exposure. Unfortunately, not much is known about low level exposure and chronic neurologic effects other than the well described parkinsonian syndrome. He is improving now, do not think that MRI would be helpful. If symptoms continue, they will let me know. May consider referral to Primary children's neurology department.

See Records (Dkt. No. 29-17). Plaintiffs have not submitted any affidavit of Dr.

         Gerard and her deposition was never taken. There is nothing in the record concerning her qualifications. She says causation is “likely” but does not explain whether she reaches that conclusion to a reasonable degree of medical certainty. An expert opinion would need to describe the symptoms and identify her methodology for concluding that the cyanide exposure caused those symptoms. She never identifies the “symptoms” she refers to. What is the level of “exposure” that she assumed? Is she merely recounting what CM told her or did she conduct an independent analysis of her own? All the medical tests in the record show no cyanide levels in the blood and CM's MRI showed no damage. So she cannot be relying on other medical ...

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