Dilley v. Valentine, No. WD 74790.

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Writing for the CourtVICTOR C. HOWARD
Citation401 S.W.3d 544
PartiesStephanie DILLEY, Appellant, v. Michael VALENTINE, et al., Respondent.
Docket NumberNo. WD 74790.
Decision Date18 June 2013

401 S.W.3d 544

Stephanie DILLEY, Appellant,
Michael VALENTINE, et al., Respondent.

No. WD 74790.

Missouri Court of Appeals,
Western District.

June 18, 2013.

[401 S.W.3d 546]

David S. Baker, for Respondent.

Before Division One: MARK D. PFEIFFER, Presiding Judge, VICTOR C. HOWARD, Judge and ALOK AHUJA, Judge.


Stephanie Dilley appeals the trial court's summary judgment entered in favor of Michael Valentine and his employer, the City of Independence, Missouri (City), on her claims for damages for injuries she sustained when a fleeing vehicle struck her car at the conclusion of a police pursuit. The judgment is affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case is remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.

Factual and Procedural Background

Ms. Dilley originally filed suit against Officer Valentine and the City on August 19, 2009 ( Dilley I ). Dilley I was dismissed without prejudice in January 2010 for want of prosecution. On September 20, 2010, Ms. Dilley filed the underlying three-count petition for damages against Officer Valentine and the City. Her theories of recovery were that Officer Valentine was negligent (Count I) and reckless (Count II) in initiating the pursuit and continuing to pursue the fleeing suspect and that the City was vicariously liable for Officer's Valentine's actions (Count III). She further alleged that the City was negligent in failing to properly train and supervise Officer Valentine and in failing to implement appropriate policies and procedures (Count III).

On October 15, 2011, Officer Valentine and the City filed their motion for summary judgment, accompanying suggestions in support, and statement of uncontroverted facts. They argued that the facts in this case were indistinguishable from those in the Missouri Supreme Court case, Stanley v. City of Independence, 995 S.W.2d 485, 488 (Mo. banc 1999), which held that the pursuing officer was not the proximate cause of a collision between a fleeing suspect and an innocent third-party.

In her response to the motion for summary judgment filed on December 21, 2011, Ms. Dilley admitted every fact presented in the defendants' statement of uncontroverted facts. Those uncontroverted facts established the following. Officer Valentine was employed as a police officer with the City when the incident at issue occurred. Shortly after 8:00 pm on April 25, 2006, he was in a marked police patrol car watching for illegal drug activity in an area of Independence known for such activity. Officer Valentine observed several traffic violations by a red Oldsmobile. After observing the violations, Officer Valentine initiated the overhead emergency lights of his patrol car in an attempt to execute a traffic stop. Both the officer and the red Oldsmobile were in the city limits of the City. When the officer activated his emergency lights, the Oldsmobile did not yield but accelerated and fled from the area.

[401 S.W.3d 547]

Officer Valentine then activated the siren of his patrol car and pursued the Oldsmobile. His emergency lights and siren remained on for the duration of the pursuit. The pursuit continued into the city limits of Kansas City, Missouri. As the fleeing vehicle approached the intersection of 40 Highway and Van Brunt, it was traveling at approximately 50–55 miles per hour. At the intersection, the fleeing vehicle collided with a minivan driven by the plaintiff, Stephanie Dilley. At the time of the impact, Officer Valentine was approximately 30–40 yards 99–120 feet behind the fleeing vehicle. The entire pursuit lasted less than two minutes. As a result of the collision, the fleeing suspect was rendered unconscious and later died in a local hospital. At no time during the pursuit did Officer Valentine know the identity of the driver of the fleeing vehicle. There was no physical contact between the patrol car and the Oldsmobile at any time during the pursuit. Officer Valentine was in contact with the Independence Police Dispatcher during the pursuit, and at no time was he told to terminate or discontinue the pursuit.

Ms. Dilley also presented a statement of additional uncontroverted facts in her response to the summary judgment motion. She alleged that at the time the police chase commenced, the sun had already gone down and the roadways were wet from rain earlier in the day. Officer Valentine was informed by dispatch that no warrants were associated with the license plate on the suspect's vehicle. Once the chase moved into Kansas City, Officer Valentine and the suspect were traveling at speeds in excess of 65 miles per hour. The officer conceded that he was unfamiliar with the area once the pursuit moved into Kansas City but that he was aware that several roads converged creating a large and confusing intersection. He also conceded that he had been involved in one other chase where the suspect had been involved in a collision.

The next day, December 22, 2011, before the defendants admitted or denied the additional uncontroverted facts set forth in Ms. Dilley's response, the trial court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment on all counts finding that under the holding of Stanley, Ms. Dilley failed to present a factual basis to support a finding of proximate cause. This appeal by Ms. Dilley followed.

Standard of Review

Appellate review of the grant of summary judgment is de novo. ITT Commercial Fin. Corp. v. Mid–Am. Marine Supply Corp., 854 S.W.2d 371, 376 (Mo. banc 1993). Summary judgment will be upheld on appeal if the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law and no genuine issues of material fact exist. Id. at 377. The record is reviewed in the light most favorable to the party against whom judgment was entered, according that party all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the record. Id. at 376. Facts contained in affidavits or otherwise in support of a party's motion are accepted as true unless contradicted by the non-moving party's response to the summary judgment motion. Id.

A defending party may establish a right to judgment as a matter of law by showing any one of the following: (1) facts that negate any one of the elements of the claimant's cause of action, (2) the non-movant, after an adequate period of discovery, has not and will not be able to produce evidence sufficient to allow the trier of fact to find the existence of any one of the claimant's elements, or (3) there is no genuine dispute as to the existence of each of the facts necessary to support the

[401 S.W.3d 548]

movant's properly-pleaded affirmative defense. Id. at 381.

Once the movant has established a right to judgment as a matter of law, the non-movant must demonstrate that one or more of the material facts asserted by the movant as not in dispute is, in fact, genuinely disputed. Id. The non-moving party may not rely on mere allegations and denials of the pleadings, but must use affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories, or admissions on file to demonstrate the existence of a genuine issue for trial. Id. “The non-movant never needs to establish a right to judgment as a matter of law; the non-movant needs only show that there is a genuine dispute as to the facts underlying the movant's right to judgment.” Id. at 381–82.


To sue for negligence, the plaintiff must prove (1) the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff; (2) the defendant breached that duty; and (3) the defendant's breach was the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injury. Stanley v. City of Independence, 995 S.W.2d 485, 487 (Mo. banc 1999). The General Assembly has waived sovereign immunity for “[i]njuries directly resulting from the negligent acts or omissions by public employees arising out of the operation of motor vehicles or motorized vehicles within the course of their employment.” § 537.600.1, RSMo Cum.Supp.2011. “The language ‘directly resulting from’ in section 537.600 corresponds to proximate cause.” Stanley, 995 S.W.2d at 488 (citing State ex rel. Mo. Highway & Transp. Comm'n v. Dierker, 961 S.W.2d 58, 60 (Mo. banc 1998)). “The general test for proximate cause is whether the injury is the natural and probable consequence of the defendant's negligence.” Id. To determine whether proximate cause is shown, each case is decided on its own facts. Id. “Proximate cause cannot be based on pure speculation and conjecture.” Id. “Under respondeat superior, an employer is liable for damages from the misconduct of its employee acting within the course and scope of employment.” Id. at 487.

Ms. Dilley first argues that “the trial court wrongly concluded causation is never present where the injury results from contact with fleeing suspect as opposed to contact with the pursuing officer.” However, that is not what the trial court concluded. Instead, it found that the facts of this case were so similar to those of Stanley that Stanley was controlling and it would be erroneous to make a ruling contrary to the decision. Ms. Dilley also argues that proximate cause could be found under the facts in this case.

Both Stanley and this case involve plaintiffs who were injured as a result of motorists fleeing from police officers. In Stanley, the fleeing suspect was driving a van that matched the description of a vehicle involved in a robbery thirty minutes earlier. Id. at 486. When the van was spotted by Officer Hill, he attempted to initiate a traffic stop by turning on the emergency lights of his marked patrol car and giving a “quick yelp” of the siren. Id. The van did not yield; instead, it fled and Officer Hill pursued activating the siren. Id. The officer followed the van through a residential neighborhood and on various surface streets at speeds of approximately 55 miles per hour. Id. As the fleeing van approached an intersection, the traffic in its lane was stopped at a stoplight. Id. The van veered into the oncoming lane of traffic at nearly 70 miles an hour. Id. Michael and David Stanley were traveling in their vehicle, approaching the...

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    ...case—only the conjectural effect of the trooper's pursuit links the officer's acts to the collision.Similarly, in Dilley v. Valentine , 401 S.W.3d 544, 549 (Mo. Ct. App. 2013), the court affirmed summary judgment concluding that an officer's pursuit of a fleeing suspect for less than two mi......
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