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Prater v. Catt

Court of Appeals of Kentucky

February 28, 2014

DAVID PRATER AND MICHELLE PRATER, APPELLANTS
v.
HEATHER CATT AND ELLEN SAM, APPELLEES

APPEAL FROM FAYETTE CIRCUIT COURT. HONORABLE JAMES D. ISHMAEL, JR., JUDGE. ACTION NO. 10-CI-06527.

BRIEF FOR APPELLANTS: John R. Shelton, Louisville, Kentucky.

BRIEF FOR APPELLEES: Barbara A. Kriz, Christopher S. Turner.

BEFORE: CAPERTON, COMBS, AND THOMPSON, JUDGES. ALL CONCUR.

OPINION

Page 7

COMBS, JUDGE:

David Prater and his wife, Michelle Prater, appeal from a summary judgment of the Fayette Circuit Court entered in favor of two members of the Lexington Division of Police: Heather Catt, a mounted patrol officer, and Sgt. Ellen Sam, her supervisor. The Praters contend that the circuit court erred in concluding that Officer Catt and Sgt. Sam were entitled to judgment as matter of law. After our review, we affirm.

This personal injury action was filed on November 15, 2010. In their complaint, the Praters alleged that David had been severely injured by a mounted patrol officer prior to a college football game at Commonwealth Stadium in November 2009. The Praters contended that Sgt. Sam had negligently directed or permitted Officer Catt to position her mount near a crowd with whom David was standing and that Officer Catt had negligently failed to keep the agitated horse under her control. In their answers, each defendant alleged that she was entitled to immunity from suit.

Following a period of discovery, Officer Catt and Sgt. Sam filed a joint motion for summary judgment. Sgt. Sam acknowledged that she was responsible for scheduling the mounted patrol officers for the event at Commonwealth Stadium. However, she contended that she had not trained the officers and that she was not the supervisor directly responsible for their activity

Page 8

on the day in question. She provided no directions whatsoever to Officer Catt, and thus she argued that no conduct on her part contributed to David Prater's injuries.

Officer Catt explained that she had been assigned to patrol for criminal activity and for crowd control from her mount at the football game that day. However, as the university's band neared her horse, it spun and reared. Officer Catt indicated that she assumed that a bystander (Prater) had stumbled beneath the horse, and she moved the horse forward to observe him. Officer Catt contended that she was authorized to patrol as she saw fit and that no specific policies governed her actions with respect to her mount under the circumstances. She asserted that she had undertaken her duties in good faith and in accordance with her training. Sgt. Sam and Officer Catt alleged that they were each entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

In their written response to the motion, the Praters contended that neither Sgt. Sam nor Officer Catt was entitled to official immunity. They argued that Sgt. Sam had abdicated her supervisory responsibilities on the day in question and that she failed to make certain that Officer Catt was properly trained for the task to which she had been assigned. They contended that Officer Catt deviated from the standard of care by failing to select a known safe path of travel for her mount and by failing to control the horse once it became agitated. They argued that Sgt. Sam and Officer Catt negligently undertook what amounted to mere ministerial duties and that, therefore, they were not immune from suit.

On February 13, 2013, the Fayette Circuit Court granted summary judgment in favor of Officer Catt and Sgt. Sam. The court determined that Officer Catt had exercised her professional judgment and discretion in carrying out her official duties and that she exercised that discretion in good faith. The court concluded that she was protected as a matter of law from the Praters' allegations of negligence. The court determined that Sgt. Sam had not been under a duty to supervise Officer Catt on that particular day. It further held that even if she had been, her actions would have been governed by her professional judgment and discretion as well. ...


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