Knighten v. E. Chi. Hous. Auth., No. 45S04–1512–CT–686.

Docket NºNo. 45S04–1512–CT–686.
Citation45 N.E.3d 788
Case DateDecember 08, 2015
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana

45 N.E.3d 788

Stacy KNIGHTEN, Appellant (Plaintiff below)
v.
EAST CHICAGO HOUSING AUTHORITY, Individually and d/b/a West Calumet Complex, Davis Security Service, LLC, and Donnell Caldwell, Appellees (Defendants below).

No. 45S04–1512–CT–686.

Supreme Court of Indiana.

Dec. 8, 2015.


45 N.E.3d 789

R. Brian Woodward, David Edgar Woodward, Woodward & Blaskovich, LLP, Merrillville, IN, Attorneys for Appellant.

45 N.E.3d 790

Nicholas Aaron Snow, Harris Law Firm, P.C., Crown Point, IN, Attorneys for Appellee East Chicago Housing Authority.

Court Layne Farrell, Katherine Yvonne Gappa, Bradley Phillip Clark, Bruce Phillip Clark, Bruce P. Clark & Associates, St. John, IN, Attorneys for Appellee Donnell Caldwell and Davis Security Service, LLC.

On Petition To Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 45A04–1312–CT–632

RUCKER, Justice.

While on duty a security guard shot and severely injured a person with whom he was romantically involved. The injured party filed a complaint against the security guard's employer under the theory of respondeat superior. The trial court granted the employer's motion for summary judgment. Concluding there are genuine issues of material fact precluding summary disposition, we reverse the trial court's judgment.

Facts and Procedural History

The East Chicago Housing Authority (“Housing Authority”) operates the West Calumet Complex (“Complex”), a federal Housing and Urban Development property located in the city of East Chicago. The Housing Authority entered into a contract with Davis Security Services, LLC (“Davis Security”) to provide security services during the years 2009 to 2011. In June 2008, Davis Security hired Donnell Caldwell as a security guard. Sometime in June or July 2010 he was assigned to work at a guard shack located at the front entrance of the Complex. As discussed in more detail later in this opinion, although the full scope of Caldwell's duties are in dispute, they at least included monitoring traffic entering the Complex.

Before his employment with Davis Security, Caldwell had been romantically involved with Stacy Knighten, a resident of the Complex. On August 7, 2010, while on duty at the guard shack, Caldwell permitted Knighten and her friend to drive his car to a liquor store. When Knighten returned, she and Caldwell argued about Knighten having spent all of his money and that she was driving while intoxicated. The argument escalated to the point that Caldwell ordered Knighten to exit his car and walk home. Caldwell entered the guard shack, retrieved his handgun, and set the traffic gate to allow incoming traffic to enter the Complex automatically. Caldwell then got into his car and drove home Knighten's friend who also lived in the Complex.

When Caldwell returned to the guard shack, Knighten was waiting for him. She angrily confronted Caldwell and the two resumed arguing. The record is unclear but apparently this confrontation occurred several yards away from the guard shack. At some point during these events Knighten damaged the entrance gate to the Complex. Further along in the confrontation Knighten turned away from Caldwell and began walking home when Caldwell drew his handgun and fired a shot striking Knighten in the back. Ultimately the gunshot injury left Knighten paralyzed from the waist down.

Knighten filed a complaint for damages against the Housing Authority, Davis Security, and Caldwell alleging that during the course of his employment and while present at the Complex, Caldwell negligently discharged his firearm causing Knighten to suffer permanent injuries. Knighten's complaint also alleged liability on the part of the Housing Authority and Davis Security for negligent hiring and supervision. After conducting discovery, Davis Security and the Housing Authority filed motions for summary judgment, and Knighten filed a cross-motion for summary

45 N.E.3d 791

judgment. Following a hearing, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Davis Security and the Housing Authority on all claims and denied summary judgment to Knighten. She appealed challenging only the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Davis Security.1 In a memorandum decision the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's judgment. See Knighten v. E. Chi. Hous. Auth., 20 N.E.3d 605 (Ind.Ct.App.2014) (Table). We now grant transfer and reverse the judgment of the trial court.

Standard of Review

At the outset we observe the trial court entered detailed and thoughtful findings of fact and conclusions of law in support of its judgment neither of which is required nor prohibited in the summary judgment context. City of Gary v. Ind. Bell Tel. Co., 732 N.E.2d 149, 152 (Ind.2000). “Although specific findings aid our review of a summary judgment ruling they are not binding on this Court.” Id.; see also Winchell v. Guy, 857 N.E.2d 1024, 1027 (Ind.Ct.App.2006) (“A trial court's findings and conclusions supporting its summary judgment order offer insight into the rationale of the trial court's judgment, but they are not binding upon us.” (citation omitted)). Instead, when we review a grant or denial of a motion for summary judgment, our standard of review is the same as it is for the trial court. Reed v. Reid, 980 N.E.2d 277, 285 (Ind.2012). The moving party must show there are no genuine issues of material fact and it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id. If the moving party carries its burden, then the non-moving party must present evidence establishing the existence of a genuine issue of material fact. Id. In deciding whether summary judgment is proper, we consider only the evidence the parties specifically designated to the trial court. See Ind. Trial Rule 56(C), (H). We construe all factual inferences in favor of the non-moving party and resolve all doubts regarding the existence of a material issue against the moving party. Reed, 980 N.E.2d at 285. Further “[t]he fact that the parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment does not alter our standard for review....” Id. Instead, under most circumstances “we consider each motion separately to determine whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter...

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