Sauders v. County of Steuben, 92A03-9005-CV-213

Citation564 N.E.2d 948
Case DateJanuary 07, 1991
CourtCourt of Appeals of Indiana

Kurt Bentley Grimm, Kevin L. Likes, Grimm & Grimm, P.C., Auburn, for appellant.

Branch R. Lew, Hunt, Suedhoff, Borror & Eilbacher, Fort Wayne, for appellees.

HOFFMAN, Presiding Judge.

Plaintiff-appellant Betty Jean Sauders, personal representative of Mark Sowles' estate, appeals the trial court's grant of summary judgment to the defendants-appellees.

The facts relevant to this appeal disclose that on April 28, 1986, at approximately 11:00 P.M., Mark Sowles was operating a motor vehicle which rear-ended the patrol car of Dennis Fee of the Angola Police Department. Due to Fee's involvement in the accident, Indiana State Police Trooper Richard Lewis investigated the accident. Lewis noticed a strong odor of alcohol on Sowles' breath and that Sowles' eyes were bloodshot and his speech was slurred. A chemical test for intoxication was performed revealing Sowles' blood alcohol level to be .15%.

Sowles was arrested and charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated, IND.CODE Sec. 9-11-2-1, et seq. (1988 Ed.). Due to the charge, Sowles was required to be incarcerated a minimum of four hours. IND.CODE Sec. 35-33-1-6 (1988 Ed.).

At approximately 12:10 A.M., Sowles was brought to the Steuben County Jail. After the standard procedures were completed, Sowles was placed in a cell at approximately 12:30 A.M. to 12:35 A.M. Sowles was issued a wool blanket to keep him warm.

Sowles attempted suicide by hanging himself in his cell by making a noose from the wool blanket. He was found at approximately 1:17 A.M. and medical care was administered. Sowles died at a later date.

His estate is suing claiming that defendants were negligent in their care and supervision of Sowles. The defendants filed a summary judgment motion claiming immunity pursuant to IND.CODE Sec. 34-4-16.5-3(7) (1988 Ed.). The trial court granted summary judgment.

One issue is raised for review: whether the Indiana Tort Claims Act provides immunity from liability for the Sheriff of Steuben County and his employees for alleged negligent acts committed at the county jail during Sowles' incarceration.

Appellant claims that the defendants' negligent care and supervision of Sowles during his incarceration should not be immune from liability. Appellant contends that defendants' acts should not be considered "enforcement of a law," but rather administrative duties.

The sheriff has a duty to "take care of the county jail and prisoners there" pursuant to IND.CODE Sec. 36-2-13-5(a)(7) (1988 Ed.). However, this duty can properly be considered enforcement of a law. Therefore, immunity from liability will be granted even if the duty is negligently performed. This immunity statute, provided under the Indiana Tort Claims Act, reads in relevant part:

"A governmental entity or an employee acting within the scope of his employment is not liable if a loss results from:

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(7) the adoption and enforcement of or failure to adopt or enforce a...

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4 cases
  • Tittle v. Mahan, 57A03-9004-CV-132
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • February 19, 1991
    ...action against a sheriff and employees for the attempted suicide of a pre-trial detainee. Sauders v. County of Steuben (1991), Ind.App., 564 N.E.2d 948. The Police The uncontroverted facts indicate that Terry Tittle was not in the custody or under the care and control of the Fort Wayne Poli......
  • Tittle v. Mahan, 57S03-9112-CV-982
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court of Indiana
    • December 12, 1991
    ...Aldrich and Mark Klink (collectively "jail defendants") (Defendants-Appellees below). Sauders v. County of Steuben (1991), Ind.App., 564 N.E.2d 948. The facts relevant to this appeal follow. On April 28, 1986, an automobile driven by Sowles collided with the rear of a police patrol vehicle ......
  • Hudgins v. McAtee, 49A02-9109-CV-406
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • July 29, 1992", and therefore, while acting under said duty, immunity applies to the Sheriff and his employees. See Sauders v. County of Steuben, 564 N.E.2d 948 (Ind.App. 3 Dist.1991), Tittle v. Mahan, 566 N.E.2d 1064 (Ind.App. 3 3. Since the Plaintiff's complaint alleges the negligent acts of the de......
  • Willett v. Clark, 82A01-8808-CV-273
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • January 7, 1991
    ...564 N.E.2d 948 Judith M. WILLETT, Appellant (Plaintiff Betty J. CLARK, Appellee (Defendant Below). No. 82A01-8808-CV-273. Court of Appeals of Indiana, First District. Jan. 7, 1991. Appeal from the Vanderburgh Superior Court; Thomas M. Lockyear, J., Cause No. 87-CIV-947. Glenn A. Grampp, Eva......

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