Maldonado v. City of Sibley, 20-CV-4029-LRR

CourtUnited States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
Writing for the CourtLINDA R. READE JUDGE.
Docket Number20-CV-4029-LRR
PartiesVICTOR BARRIOS MALDONADO, through his Guardian Lidia Marina Mazariegos Ochoa, and LIDIA MARINA MAZARIEGOS OCHOA, individually as wife of Victor Barrios Maldonado, Plaintiffs, v. CITY OF SIBLEY, IOWA, Defendant.
Decision Date24 August 2021

VICTOR BARRIOS MALDONADO, through his Guardian Lidia Marina Mazariegos Ochoa, and LIDIA MARINA MAZARIEGOS OCHOA, individually as wife of Victor Barrios Maldonado, Plaintiffs,
v.

CITY OF SIBLEY, IOWA, Defendant.

No. 20-CV-4029-LRR

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Western Division

August 24, 2021


ORDER

LINDA R. READE JUDGE.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. INTRODUCTION. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

II. RELEVANT PROCEDURAL HISTORY. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

III. SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2

IV. SUMMARY JUDGMENT. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3

V. RELEVANT FACTUAL BACKGROUND. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

VI. ANALYSIS. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

A. The Public Duty Doctrine. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

1. Applicable law. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

2. Parties' arguments. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12

3. Application. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14

B. Negligence Claims. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18

1. Gross Negligence. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .18

2. Negligence Per Se. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20

3. Negligence. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22

VII. CONCLUSION. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .23

I. INTRODUCTION

The matter before the court is Defendant City of Sibley, Iowa's (“the City”) Motion for Summary Judgment (“Motion”) (docket no. 23).

II. RELEVANT PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On June 11, 2020, Plaintiffs Victor Barrios Maldonado and Lidia Marina Mazariegos Ochoa (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) filed the First Amended Complaint (docket no. 6). In the First Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs allege negligence (Count I), gross negligence (Count II), negligence per se (Count III) and loss of consortium (Count IV). See generally Amended Complaint ¶¶ 22-4[4]. On July 3, 2020, the City filed an Answer and Affirmative Defenses (docket no. 14).

On March 5, 2021, the City filed the Motion. On May 6, 2021, Plaintiffs filed the Resistance (docket no. 32).[1] On May 13, 2021, the City filed the Reply (docket no. 34). On June 28, 2021, a telephonic hearing was held, during which both parties had the opportunity to address the Motion. See June 28, 2021 Minute Entry (docket no. 36). The matter is fully submitted and ready for decision.

III. SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION

Victor Maldonado is a Minnesota resident, residing in Worthington, Nobles County, Minnesota. First Amended Complaint ¶ 2. Lidia Ochoa is also a Minnesota resident, residing in Worthington, Nobles County, Minnesota. Id. ¶ 3. The City of Sibley, Iowa is located in Osceola County, Iowa, and is a municipality that may be sued under Iowa Code Section 670.2. Id. ¶ 4. In the First Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000 and that assertion is not disputed. First Amended Complaint ¶ 5; Answer ¶ 5.

Accordingly, the court has diversity jurisdiction over the claims because complete diversity exists between the parties and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000. See U.S.C. § 1332(a)(1) (“The district courts have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75, 000 . . . and is between . . . citizens of different States.”); see also First Amended Complaint ¶¶ 5-6.

IV. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “Summary judgment is proper ‘if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show'” an absence of a genuine dispute as to a material fact. Hilde v. City of Eveleth, 777 F.3d 998, 1003 (8th Cir. 2015) (quoting Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc)). “A dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that it could cause a reasonable jury to return a verdict for either party; a fact is material if its resolution affects the outcome of the case.” Massey-Diez v. Univ. of Iowa Cmty. Med. Servs., Inc., 826 F.3d 1149, 1157 (8th Cir. 2016) (quoting Gazal v. Boehringer Ingelheim Pharm., Inc., 647 F.3d 833, 837-38 (8th Cir. 2011)). “The movant ‘bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion,' and must identify ‘those portions of [the record] . . . which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.'” Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1042 (alterations in original) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)). Once the movant has done so, “the nonmovant must respond by submitting evidentiary materials that set out ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Id. (quoting Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 324).

On a motion for summary judgment, the court must view the facts “in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Id. (quoting Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 586 (2009)). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue for trial, ” and summary judgment is appropriate. Ricci, 557 U.S. at 586 (quoting Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)). “The nonmovant ‘must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts....'” Torgerson, 643 F.3d at 1042 (quoting Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586). Instead, “[t]o survive a motion for summary judgment, the nonmoving party must substantiate [its] allegations with sufficient probative evidence [that] would permit a finding in [its] favor based on more than mere speculation, conjecture, or fantasy.” Williams v. Mannis, 889 F.3d 926, 931 (8th Cir. 2018) (third alteration in original) (quoting Barber v. C1 Truck Driver Training, LLC, 656 F.3d 782, 801 (8th Cir. 2011)). Mere “self-serving allegations and denials are insufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact.” Anuforo v. Comm'r of Internal Revenue, 614 F.3d 799, 807 (8th Cir. 2010). “Evidence, not contentions, avoids summary judgment.” Reasonover v. St. Louis Cty., 447 F.3d 569, 578 (8th Cir. 2006) (quoting Mayer v. Nextel W. Corp., 318 F.3d 803, 809 (8th Cir. 2003)).

V. RELEVANT FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The City owns and operates a municipal utility that supplies electricity to businesses and residents in the community. City's Statement of Undisputed Material Facts (“SUMF”) (docket no. 23-2) ¶ 1. The City makes a profit from distributing and selling electricity to Sibley residents and businesses. Plaintiffs' Statement of Additional Material Facts (“SAMF”) (docket no. 32-2) ¶ 1.[2] The City also sells and supplies electricity to the neighboring city of Bigelow, Minnesota, and to some surrounding rural customers. Id. ¶ 2. As it relates to safety standards, a municipal utility is regulated by the Iowa Utilities Board (“IUB”). SUMF ¶ 2.

At the time period pertinent to this case, Victor Maldonado was an employee of Gambino Drywall and Siding. Id. ¶ 3. On September 26, 2018, Maldonado was working on the of a building located at 839 3rd Avenue in Sibley, Iowa. Id. Specifically, Maldonado was working on the roof's rain gutters. Id. ¶ 4. While working on the rain gutters, Maldonado was electrocuted by high voltage current from a nearby power line. Id. As a result of the electrocution and subsequent fall from the roof of the building, Maldonado was severely injured. Id. ¶ 5.

The minimum distance between electric transmission lines and buildings is governed by Iowa Code section 478.20, which provides that a municipal utility “shall conform to any other rules, regulations, or specifications established by the utilities board, in the construction, operation, or maintenance of such lines.” SUMF ¶ 6 (quoting Iowa Code § 478.20). The specifications established by the IUB are provided in Iowa Administrative Code Chapter 199, which provides in pertinent part that “[o]verhead and underground electric line minimum safety requirements to be applied in installation, operation, and maintenance are found in 199-Chapter 25, Iowa electrical safety code.” SUMF ¶ 7 (quoting IAC § 199-11.1(2)). As it relates to the installation and maintenance of overhead electric supply lines, Iowa has adopted the National Electrical Safety Code (“NESC”). SUMF ¶ 2; see also IAC § 199-25.2(2)(a)(4)(b)(4). At the time the electrical pole in question was installed, sometime in the 1970s, the NESC required a minimum vertical clearance of 8 feet. SUMF ¶¶ 14-15. At the time of Maldonado's accident, the transmission wire which Maldonado came into contact with was approximately 10 feet, 5 inches above the roof and 9 feet, 2 inches above the parapet wall on the front of the building. Id. ¶ 16. Since 1990, the NESC has required a minimum clearance of 12 feet (1990 NESC) to 12.5 feet (2017 NESC).[3] SAMF ¶ 8; see also Plaintiffs' Appendix (docket no. 32-3) at 6-9.

The City has committed inspections of its powerlines and other electrical infrastructure at least every five years. SAMF ¶ 5. The City did not record the clearance of the subject powerline during its inspections. Id. ¶ 13. In 2015, the City installed new transformers on the power pole closest to where Maldonado was injured. Id. ¶ 6. No building permits were issued in connection to the work being done on the building involved in Maldonado's fall. SUMF ¶ 11.

The court finds that there are no issues of...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT