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Anzures v. Ward

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

January 3, 2017

Elisea Cervantes Anzures, Plaintiff,
v.
Michele Leann Ward, Respondent, City of Saint Paul, Appellant.

         Washington County District Court File No. 82-CV-15-4451.

         Reversed.

          Erin F. Musland, Francis J. Rondoni, Chestnut & Cambronne PA, Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Keith J. Kerfeld, Tewksbury & Kerfeld, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent)

          Samuel J. Clark, St. Paul City Attorney, K. Meghan Kisch, Assistant City Attorney, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)

          Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge; Larkin, Judge; and Kirk, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         When a municipality's decision that an employee is not entitled to defense and indemnification under Minn. Stat. § 466.07, subd. 1 (2016), meets the requirements for a quasi-judicial decision, a writ of certiorari is the exclusive method by which to challenge the decision.

          OPINION

          PETERSON, Judge.

         Appellant-city challenges the district court's denial of its motion to dismiss respondent-police officer's cross-claim seeking defense and indemnification, arguing that the district court erred by determining that it had subject-matter jurisdiction to review the city's decision that respondent is not entitled to defense and indemnification under Minn. Stat. § 466.07, subd. 1. Because the city's decision was a quasi-judicial decision and no right of review in the district court is provided by statute or appellate rule, the district court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction. We reverse.

         FACTS

         In August 2009, appellant City of St. Paul employed respondent Michele Leann Ward, n/k/a Michele Giampolo, as a police officer. While on patrol duty, Ward received permission from her supervisor to run a personal errand. While running the errand, Ward drove her city-issued squad car at a speed of about 70 miles per hour in a 30 mile-per-hour speed zone and crashed into a vehicle that crossed in front of the squad car at an intersection.

         Ward was charged with misdemeanor speeding and misdemeanor careless driving. Ward entered an Alford plea[1] to the speeding charge, and the careless-driving charge was dismissed. Although Ward entered an Alford plea, she responded affirmatively to the following question: "You're pleading guilty because you are guilty, correct?"

         About five years later, plaintiff Elisea Cervantes Anzures sued Ward and the city, alleging that she was the driver of the vehicle that Ward's squad car struck and that she sustained bodily injury as a result of Ward's negligence. Interim City Attorney Laura Pietan notified Ward that she was conducting an assessment to determine whether the city would defend and indemnify Ward against the lawsuit. Pietan requested a meeting with Ward to discuss the matter and gave Ward an opportunity to submit written material relevant to the determination before the meeting. Ward declined to meet with Pietan or submit any written materials, stating that her recollection of the accident was "very foggy" and that Pietan should rely on the statements Ward made immediately after the accident.

         In an April 10, 2015 letter, Pietan notified Ward that she had determined that Ward was not acting in performance of her duties as a police officer when the accident occurred and that Ward acted with malfeasance, willful neglect of duty, or bad faith. Therefore, under Minn. Stat. § 466.07, subd. 1, Ward was not entitled to defense and indemnification by the city. In making the determination, Pietan considered documentary and other recorded evidence, including (1) incident reports, the complaint, and the plea transcript from the district court file on the speeding and careless-driving charges against Ward; (2) statements and documents relating to the internal-affairs investigation of Ward; (3) accident reports, laboratory reports, and crash data from the Minnesota State Patrol; (4) Anzures's October and December 2009 statements and the complaint in her negligence action; (5) statements by witnesses to the accident and photographs of the accident scene; and (6) notes and a finding from an accident-review-board meeting.

         Ward filed a cross-claim against the city, seeking a judgment awarding her all costs, disbursements, and reasonable attorney fees incurred in defending against Anzures's lawsuit and "full and complete contribution and indemnity" for any judgment or recovery that Anzures obtained against Ward. Ward moved for summary judgment, arguing that she is entitled to defense and indemnification by the city as a matter of law. The city moved to dismiss Ward's cross-claim on the ground that the district court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to decide the claim. The district court denied both parties' motions. This appeal followed.

         ISSUE

         Did the district court have subject-matter jurisdiction over ...


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