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October 11, 2019 Digests

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Kansas Supreme Court

Civil

DUTY—IMMUNITY—LAW ENFORCEMENT
WILLIAMS V. C-U-OUT BAIL BONDS
JOHNSON DISTRICT COURT—COURT OF APPEALS IS REVERSED,
DISTRICT COURT IS REVERSED—CASE REMANDED
NO. 116,883—OCTOBER 11, 2019

FACTS: Agents from C-U-Out Bail Bonds came to the Williamses' home in search of the Williamses' daughter-in-law. Mrs. Williams told the agents that the woman they sought was not in her home. It was late at night, Williams was caring for her elderly and ill mother, and she denied the agents' request to enter the home. The agents attempted to enter the home by force, and Williams called the police. After the police arrived, agents forced their way into the home. The police officers on scene stood and watched and refused to assist Williams. The Williamses sued both C-U-Out and also the City of Overland Park, claiming the officers committed the tort of "negligent failure to protect." The district court granted the City's motion to dismiss, finding that the City was immune from liability under the Kansas Tort Claims Act and also finding that the City owed no duty to the Williamses. The Court of Appeals agreed that the City owed no duty to the Williamses. The panel also held that the City was immune under the discretionary function exception. The Kansas Supreme Court granted review.

ISSUES: (1) Sufficiency of facts to support illegal conduct, (2) existence of a duty, (3) discretionary function immunity

HELD:  The issue of whether C-U-Out's agents acted lawfully was, in part, a factual question. The Court of Appeals erred by disregarding factual allegations made in the Williamses' petition. Generally, law enforcement owes a duty only to the public at large. To succeed here, the Williamses had to prove that the City owed them a duty because of a special relationship or a specific circumstance. Although the existence of a duty is a question of law, where a duty is predicated on an affirmative act, there is a threshold factual question of whether the defendant's behavior could have triggered a duty. The district court erred by granting the motion to dismiss because of a lack of duty. The question of whether discretionary function immunity exists is high contextual. The district court erred by granting a motion to dismiss on these grounds.

STATUTES: K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 60-212(b)(6), 75-6104, -6104(e); K.S.A. 22-2809

 

Kansas Court of Appeals

CIVIL

JURY MISCONDUCT
KING V. CASEY'S GENERAL STORES, INC.
RICE DISTRICT COURT—AFFIRMED
NO. 120,241—OCTOBER 11, 2019

FACTS: King was injured after he slipped on some ice in a Casey's parking lot. He filed suit and the parties attempted to settle; when that was unsuccessful, the case proceeded to trial. During voir dire, panel member J.W. was asked whether he had any personal knowledge that would cause a problem for him if he was seated on the jury. J.W. said that he knew one of the witnesses—a Casey's employee—but said that wouldn't make him unable to be impartial when deciding the case. Another potential juror, R.W., was removed from the jury panel via peremptory strike because he knew King's family. The day after voir dire concluded, R.W. contacted King's attorney to tell her that one of the potential jurors told the panel that Casey's had offered to settle and that King should have accepted the offer. Further questioning revealed that the juror who brought up the settlement was J.W. King moved for a mistrial based on juror misconduct. After J.W. was questioned, the district court denied the motion but it did remove J.W. from the jury panel. The jury continued with 11 members and ultimately returned a verdict finding no fault by either party. King moved for a new trial based on juror misconduct, which was denied. King appealed.

ISSUE: (1) Whether J.W. tainted the jury

HELD: In most civil cases, a person asserting juror misconduct has the burden to prove that the misconduct occurred and that prejudice resulted. In this case, there was a factual dispute regarding how much J.W. knew about settlement proceedings and how extensively he shared that knowledge with other jurors. J.W.'s failure to volunteer information did not amount to prejudicial misconduct.

STATUTE: K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 60-259(a)

 

DUTY—NEGLIGENCE
MORGAN V. HEALING HANDS HOME HEALTH CARE, LLC
SEDGWICK DISTRICT COURT—REVERSED AND REMANDED
NO. 119,147—OCTOBER 11, 2019

FACTS: Morgan's son, Robert Cook, had "chronic, severe" paranoid schizophrenia and diabetes. His schizophrenia made him forgetful, which meant he had trouble remembering to take his medication. His doctors prescribed twice-daily home healthcare visits. Cook's health aides were supposed to evaluate his status, set up medications and remind Cook to take his pills, monitor his blood sugar, and draw labs as needed. Beginning in May of 2013, nurses noted that Cook's apartment was very warm. Some of Cook's medications made him unable to tolerate heat. The nurses counseled Cook on the temperature in his apartment and on his personal hygiene. Cook was unable or unwilling to follow their requests, and he continued to live in his apartment with no temperature control, resulting in him sweating and being warm. Medical logs noted that Cook's pulse was very rapid. In June 2013, Cook died of hyperthermia. Morgan brought a wrongful death and survival action against Healing Hands, claiming its negligence caused Cook's death. Healing Hands sought and received partial summary judgment on two issues: that it legally had no duty to alert Morgan to Cook's condition, and that Kansas' mandatory reporter statute did not require Healing Hands or its employees to report Cook's condition to law enforcement or state authorities. The remaining issues were tried to a jury, which found in Healing Hands's favor. Morgan appeals.

ISSUES: (1) Duty to warn and mandated reporter, (2) disputed issues of material fact, (3) jury instructions

HELD: The district court read the mandatory reporter statute too broadly. The statute did not require that Cook had previously been adjudicated incompetent or appointed a guardian or conservator before its obligations were triggered. There were fact questions on this issue that should have been heard by a jury. Evidence showed that while Cook lived independently, he required twice-daily nursing care to manage his physical and mental health. The mandatory reporter statutes created a duty of care, and the violation of these statutes may be used to establish a breach of that duty. The district court did not err when instructing the jury.

CONCURRENCE: (Malone, J.) Concurs in the result.

STATUTE: K.S.A. 39-1430(a), -1430(g), -1431, -1431(a), -1431(e), -1432(b)

Tags:  Author: Patti Van Slyke  duty  immunity  Johnson District Court  jury misconduct  law enforcement  negligence  Rice District Court  Sedgwick District Court 

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