Tittle v. Mahan, 57S03-9112-CV-982

Citation582 N.E.2d 796
Case DateDecember 12, 1991
CourtSupreme Court of Indiana

Page 796

582 N.E.2d 796
Jacqueline R. TITTLE, as Personal Representative of the
Estate of Terry N. Tittle, Deceased, and on her own behalf,
and Glen Alvin Cochran, by his next friend, Beth Ann
Cochran, Appellants (Defendants Below),
Michael MAHAN; David Meyers; David Gladieux; Glen Harpel;
Oscar Equia; Daniel L. Figel, Sheriff of Allen County,
Indiana; Rosemary Mosley; and the City of Fort Wayne,
Appellees (Plaintiffs Below).
Betty Jean SAUDERS, Personal Representative of the Estate of
Mark S. Sowles, Deceased, Appellant (Plaintiff Below),
The COUNTY OF STEUBEN, State of Indiana; Lawnie M.
McClelland, as Sheriff of Steuben County, Indiana; Steuben
County Board of Commissioners; Gregory W. Aldrich and Mark
Klink, Employees of the Steuben County Sheriff's Department,
Appellees (Defendants Below).
No. 57S03-9112-CV-982.
Supreme Court of Indiana.
Dec. 12, 1991.

Page 797

John B. Powell, Shambaugh Kast Beck & Williams, Fort Wayne, for appellants Tittle and Cochran.

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

Richard A. Waples, Legal Director, Ind. Civ. Liberties Union, Indianapolis, for amicus curiae Ind. Civ. Liberties Union.

Phillip A. Renz, Larry L. Barnard, Miller Carson & Boxberger, Fort Wayne, for appellee Mosley and City of Fort Wayne.

John O. Feighner, George Sistevarus, Haller & Covlin, Fort Wayne, for appellees Mahan, Myers, Gladieux, Harpel, Equia and Figel.

Branch R. Lew, Hunt Suedhoff Borror & Eilbacher, Fort Wayne, Helen M. Burke, Scopelitis Garvin Light & Hanson, Indianapolis, for appellees Steuben County, McClelland, Bd. of Comm. and Aldrich & Klink.


KRAHULIK, Justice.

The two cases before us today on petitions to transfer have been consolidated because both require us to construe a portion of the Indiana Tort Claims Act, IND.CODE ANN. Sec. 34-4-16.5-3(7) (West Supp.1990), and decide whether law enforcement officials and their employers are immune from liability in connection with the treatment of pre-trial detainees. We now grant transfer to re-evaluate some of our earlier statements in Seymour Nat'l. Bank v. State (1981), Ind., 422 N.E.2d 1223, mod. on reh'g. 428 N.E.2d 203, and conclude that the immunity granted by Section 3(7) of the Tort Claims Act does not encompass the treatment of pre-trial detainees and is limited to circumstances surrounding the apprehension of suspects.


In the first case, Jacqueline R. Tittle, individually and as personal representative of the estate of Terry N. Tittle, and Glen Alvin Cochran, by his next friend Beth Ann Cochran, (collectively, "Tittle") (Plaintiffs-Appellants below) seek transfer after the Court of Appeals affirmed the entry of summary judgment in favor of Michael Mahan, David Meyers, David Gladieux, Glen Harpel, Oscar Equia, Daniel L. Figen (collectively "jail defendants"), Rosemary Mosley and the City of Fort Wayne (collectively "police defendants") (Defendants-Appellees below). Tittle v. Mahan (1991), Ind.App., 566 N.E.2d 1064.

The facts pertinent to this appeal follow. On April 14, 1987, Terry Tittle was arrested and charged with criminal deviate conduct, robbery and burglary. He was transported to the Allen County jail and custody

Page 798

was transferred from the police defendants to the jail defendants. He was interviewed that day and the next day by Mosley, a Fort Wayne police officer. During these interviews, Terry told Mosley that he was depressed. Mosley was also informed by Terry's mother that he had previously attempted suicide. Apparently, this information was not passed along from the police defendants to the jail defendants or anyone at the Allen County jail. On April 16, 1987, Terry was transferred to a cell at the Allen County jail. An observation order was issued by the jail nurse and "suicide precautions" was checked as the purpose of the order. On April 18, 1987, in his jail cell, Terry committed suicide by self-strangulation.

His personal representative brought suit against both the police defendants and the jail defendants alleging negligence and a deprivation of constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983. All defendants filed motions for summary judgment on the grounds that (1) the Indiana Tort Claims Act rendered them immune from liability for negligence because they had been involved in the enforcement of a law at the time of their dealing with Terry; and (2) that Tittle had not established the requisite standard of "deliberate indifference" in the Section 1983 action. The trial court granted all motions for summary judgment and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

In the other case, Betty Jean Sauders, as the personal representative of the estate of Mark S. Sowles (Plaintiff-Appellant below), seeks transfer after the Court of Appeals affirmed the entry of summary judgment in favor of Steuben County, State of Indiana, Lawnie McClelland, Steuben County Board of Commissioners, Gregory 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 driven by an Angola city police officer. An Indiana state trooper investigated the accident and arrested Sowles. Tests showed his blood alcohol level to be .15 per cent. Because IND.CODE ANN. Sec. 35-33-1-6 (West 1986) required Sowles to be incarcerated for at least four hours, he was transported to the Steuben County jail at approximately midnight, where he was processed by Aldrich, an employee of the Sheriff's Department, and placed alone in a two-person cell at 12:35 a.m. At 1:17 a.m., Sowles was found unconscious with a noose of blanket strips knotted around his neck. Despite resuscitation attempts and subsequent medical treatment, Sowles never regained consciousness. He remained in a permanent vegetative state until he died on July 13, 1988. Sauders filed suit alleging that the jail defendants had been negligent in their care and custody of the decedent. All defendants filed motions for summary judgment on the grounds that they were immune under the Indiana Tort Claims Act because they had been enforcing the law with respect to their treatment of Sowles. Those motions were granted by the trial court and affirmed by the Court of Appeals.

Indiana Tort Claims Act

Governmental immunity is controlled by the Indiana Tort Claims Act, IND.CODE ANN. Sec. 34-4-16.5-1, et seq. (West 1983 and Supp.1990). In general, governmental entities and their employees are subject to liability for torts committed by them, unless the activity giving rise to the tort falls within the exceptions enumerated in the Tort Claims Act. Peavler v. Monroe County Bd. of Comm'rs. (1988), Ind., 528 N.E.2d 40, 42. The exception at issue here is found at IND.CODE Sec. 34-4-16.5-3, which provides:

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

* * * * * *

(7) the adoption and enforcement of or failure to adopt or enforce a law (including rules and regulations), unless the act of enforcement constitutes false arrest or false imprisonment.

Page 799

Answering the question of whether the act of placing and maintaining a pre-trial detainee in a jail cell is "enforcement of a law" determines whether the law enforcement defendants are entitled to...

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