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Patton v. Bickford

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

July 19, 2013

SHEILA PATTON, ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF STEPHEN LAWRENCE PATTON APPELLANT
v.
DAVIDA BICKFORD; PAUL FANNING; RONALD "SONNY" FENTRESS; JEREMY HALL; ANGELA MULLINS; LYNN HANDSHOE; AND GREG NICHOLS APPELLEES

APPEAL FROM FLOYD CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE JOHN DAVID CAUDILL, JUDGE ACTION NO. 08-CI-00653

BRIEF FOR APPELLANT: Vanessa B. Cantley Louisville, Kentucky

BRIEF FOR APPELLEES DAVIDA BICKFORD; PAUL FANNING; AND RONALD “SONNY” FENTRESS: Michael J. Schmitt Jonathan C. Shaw Paintsville, Kentucky

BRIEF FOR APPELLEES JEREMY HALL; ANGELA MULLINS; LYNN HANDSHOE; AND GREG NICHOLS: Neal Smith Pikeville, Kentucky

BEFORE: CLAYTON, LAMBERT, AND VANMETER, JUDGES.

OPINION

VANMETER, JUDGE

Sheila Patton, as administratrix of Stephen Lawrence Patton's estate (referred to as "the Estate"), appeals from the Floyd Circuit Court's order granting summary judgment in favor of Davida Bickford (referred to as "Principal"), Paul Fanning and Ronald "Sonny" Fentress (collectively referred to as "Superintendents"), and Jeremy Hall, Angela Mullins, Lynn Handshoe, and Greg Nichols (collectively referred to as "Teachers"). For the following reasons, we affirm.

The Estate filed the underlying wrongful death action against the Teachers, Principal, and Superintendents, in their individual capacities, alleging negligence in failing to supervise Stephen Patton and other students at Allen Central Middle School ("ACMS"). The Estate claims that the Teachers, Principal, and Superintendents failed to comply with ACMS's and Floyd County School Board's anti-bullying policies and procedures, which resulted in Stephen's being subjected to constant bullying, and eventually taking his own life.

The Teachers, Principal, and Superintendents moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted on two grounds: (1) the Teachers, Principal, and Superintendents were entitled to qualified official immunity and (2) Stephen's act of suicide was an intervening and superseding act which cut off any liability. This appeal followed.

Summary judgment shall be granted only if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, stipulations, and admissions on file together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." CR[1] 56.03.

The trial court must view the record "in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion for summary judgment and all doubts are to be resolved in his favor." Steelvest, Inc. v. Scansteel Serv. Ctr., Inc., 807 S.W.2d 476, 480 (Ky. 1991) (citations omitted). Further, "a party opposing a properly supported summary judgment motion cannot defeat it without presenting at least some affirmative evidence showing that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial." Id. at 482 (citations omitted).

On appeal from a granting of summary judgment, our standard of review is "whether the trial court correctly found that there were no genuine issues as to any material fact and that the moving party was entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Lewis v. B & R Corp., 56 S.W.3d 432, 436 (Ky. App. 2001) (citations omitted). We review the trial court's legal conclusions de novo. Hallahan v. Courier-Journal, 138 S.W.3d 699, 705 (Ky. App. 2004).

At the outset, we note that the Estate's appellate brief deviates from the format mandated by CR 76.12 because it fails to cite to the trial record. When an appellate brief fails to abide by the rules, our options are: "(1) to ignore the deficiency and proceed with the review; (2) to strike the brief or its offending portions, CR 76.12(8)(a); or (3) to review the issues raised in the brief for manifest injustice only." Hallis v. Hallis, 328 S.W.3d 694, 696 (Ky. App. 2010) (citation omitted). In this instance, we choose to ignore the deficiencies and proceed with the review, not to reward deviating from the rules, but because this case exclusively rests on a judgment of law. Thus, citation to the factual record is not particularly crucial to our review.

Proceeding to the merits, the Estate first claims the trial court erred by granting summary judgment on grounds of ...


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