Carver County District Court File No. C5-01-1489.
Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge, Willis, Judge, and
A city is entitled to vicarious official immunity when its police officers are protected by official immunity. A police officer is protected by official immunity for discretionary conduct while taking part in a bona fide training exercise involving a simulated emergency.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Randall, Judge
Respondent Richard Fedke (a civilian) sued appellants, the city of Chaska and the Chaska Police Department (the city), based on injuries he received while participating in a simulation involving a school bus accident. Fedke asserted that during the simulation, an officer from the Chaska Police Department willfully and negligently pushed him to the ground. The city moved for summary judgment based on vicarious official immunity. The district court denied the motion. On appeal from the district court's denial of summary judgment, the city argues that the police officer's actions involved the exercise of discretion and were not done with malice. Concluding that the essential facts in this case are not in dispute and that the matter is proper for summary judgment, we find, as a matter of law, that official immunity protects a police officer and vicarious official immunity protects Chaska and its police department. We reverse.
On August 14, 2000, the Carver County Department of Emergency Services (CCDES) and several area emergency services agencies participated in a "critical incident simulation" involving a school bus accident. CCDES organized and directed the simulation. CCDES contacted, among other emergency services agencies, the Chaska Police and Fire Departments, requesting their assistance in the simulation.
Ben Anderson is a police officer with the Chaska Police Department. One to two weeks prior to the simulation, Anderson and other individuals representing various emergency service agencies attended a meeting organized by CCDES. At the meeting, Anderson was told that he would be the first officer to arrive at the scene of the simulation.
At the time of the simulation, respondent Richard Fedke was 70 years old and worked as a bus driver for the Salden Bus Company, which served the Chaska School District. The Salden Bus Company's office manager asked Fedke to volunteer in the simulation. On August 14, 2000, Fedke and other volunteers from the Salden Bus Company met at the Chaska Middle School with CCDES county officials in charge of the simulation. The county officials informed the volunteers that the simulation would involve a school bus and car accident and that several different emergency services departments would be at the scene. Fedke and other adult volunteers were told to play the role of the parents/grandparents in the simulation. CCDES personnel told the adult volunteers that those playing the roles of first responders would be slow to start so the adult volunteers, acting in their roles as emotionally upset parents and grandparents, were to do what they could with verbal prompting to put pressure on the first responders to "get moving." This would simulate the scene if there were to be a real accident with children on the school bus and parents and grandparents hurrying to the scene. The adult volunteers were not instructed to be physically aggressive, but later to use oral prompting.
The simulation was videotaped by the Chaska School District. Anderson's participation in the simulation commenced when he was radioed by dispatch that there was a school bus accident in Chaska. When Anderson arrived at the scene, he told dispatch his location and observation that a school bus was turned over on its side and numerous victims were at the scene. Anderson observed that the bus was full of children who were dressed to depict accident victims. He requested that dispatch send paramedics and ambulances. Anderson retrieved his medical bag from his squad car and headed toward the bus.
Fedke observed a Chaska Fire Department vehicle arrive at the scene and confronted the occupants. He approached the driver of the fire department vehicle and stated, "Let's go. Hurry up. Let's get the kids out." Fedke stated that he left the fire department vehicle because the occupants were not responding to his prompting.
Fedke then ran to the back of the school bus and arrived at its rear door shortly after Anderson. Fedke is six feet tall and, at the time of the simulation, weighed 190 pounds. As Anderson was attempting to open the back door to the school bus, Fedke initiated contact with Anderson. Fedke placed his hand on Officer Anderson's back and began pushing Anderson. Anderson stated that he was not familiar with Fedke and had not been informed that anyone would make attempts to physically interfere with ...