This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Karen A. Morris,
North Memorial Health Care, et al.,
Hennepin County District Court
File No. PI 03-16101
Ann L. Bottolene, Lundeen Law Offices,
Paul D. Reuvers,
Jason M. Hiveley, Iverson Reuvers, LLC,
Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Worke, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
On appeal from the district court’s grant of summary judgment on
appellant’s claims against a police officer and the city of
On June 10, 2002, appellant Karen A. Morris
called 911 to report that she was having chest pains. An ambulance was dispatched and subsequently
transported her to
Viewing appellant’s behavior, an onlooker contacted 911. The onlooker told 911 that appellant kept passing out and falling down on the ground. The onlooker also stated that appellant was walking without shoes and with her hospital wristband on. During deposition testimony, appellant stated that she regularly uses a walker and admitted that an onlooker could have mistaken her actions for those of an inebriated person.
Appellant began walking against traffic along Highway 81. Officer Smith was dispatched to the scene. As Officer Smith arrived at the scene the video camera in his squad car was on. The video tape shows a limited portion of the encounter. The video shows appellant walking and appearing disoriented. Appellant also appears unsteady and using the guardrail for balance. The video shows Officer Smith stopping his car in the turning lane next to appellant. The video shows Officer Smith getting out of his car and approaching appellant, who stops briefly but continues to walk forward. There is no sound recording of this event.
To get appellant out of the danger of oncoming vehicles, Officer Smith moved appellant to the other side of the guard rail. Appellant said that she felt pain and started to feel faint and told Officer Smith “I’m going to faint.” Officer Smith grabbed appellant. Appellant again told Officer Smith that she was going to faint. According to appellant, she began to fall down and Officer Smith “yanked” her up. He then turned to talk with another officer and the emergency medical technicians (EMTs) who had arrived on the scene.
In the meantime, an onlooker in a van stopped to offer appellant a ride home. The passenger of the van got out and offered appellant her seat. Because appellant could not step up into the van, appellant began to crawl into the van. Realizing that appellant was getting into the van, Officer Smith began pulling appellant out of the van by her ankles. Appellant fell out of the van onto the cement. The entire encounter between Officer Smith and appellant took approximately ten minutes.
The EMTs then strapped appellant onto a
gurney. Appellant was taken back to
Appellant commenced this suit against
respondents North Memorial, Officer Smith, and the City of
D E C I S I O N
appeal from summary judgment, this court asks two questions: (1) whether there are any genuine issues of
material fact and (2) whether the district court erred in its application of
the law. State by Cooper v. French, 460 N.W.2d 2, 4 (
Appellant argues that Officer Smith’s
actions were malicious and therefore not protected by official immunity. Official immunity
only applies in situations involving the acts of an individual state
official. Carter v. Peace Officers Standards & Training Bd., 558 N.W.2d
267, 271-72 (
Official immunity is “regularly applied
to the judgment required of police officers in discharging their duties.” Gleason v.Metrop.
Council Transit Operations,
582 N.W.2d 216, 220 (
In this case, determining the degree of force called for under the circumstances required the officer to exercise discretion. His decisions are protected unless malicious or legally unreasonable. We conclude that Officer Smith’s actions are protected. As the district court stated:
[The officer] was called to the scene and determined that [appellant] needed medical assistance because she was unsteady on her feet, unresponsive, combative, displayed erratic behavior, was dressed in what appeared to be a hospital gown, and had a hospital ID band on her wrist. Not only were [the officer’s] actions legally reasonable, he was required to aid [appellant] and would have been derelict in his duties as a police officer had he not done so.
record supports the district court’s conclusion. A review of the videotape shows appellant
disoriented, walking along side a busy highway.
Responding to the 911 call, the officer had a responsibility to act
quickly and assist appellant. Both
parties agree that appellant began to crawl into an unknown person’s van. The officer chose to get appellant back to the
hospital where she could get help, instead of allowing her to ride off
in an unknown person’s vehicle. See Minn. Stat. § 145.853, subd. 5 (2004). We conclude that Officer Smith’s actions were covered under the doctrine of official immunity. It is possible, perhaps probable, that the “Good Samaritan” would also have driven appellant to a place of safety. That does not change the appropriateness of Officer Smith’s decision to move appellant from a stranger’s vehicle to a medical vehicle.
Officer Smith is protected by official immunity, his employer, the City of
Officer Smith was entitled to official immunity, his employer, the City of
 A law enforcement officer who determines or has reason to believe that a disabled person is suffering from an illness causing the person's condition shall promptly notify the person’s physician, if practicable. If the officer is unable to ascertain the physician’s identity or to communicate with the physician, the officer shall make a reasonable effort to cause the disabled person to be transported immediately to a medical practitioner or to a facility where medical treatment is available. If the officer believes it unduly dangerous to move the disabled person, the officer shall make a reasonable effort to obtain the assistance of a medical practitioner. Minn. Stat. § 145.853, subd. 5.