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Jackson v. Minden Police Department

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

February 27, 2019

SHARON JACKSON Plaintiff-Appellant
v.
MINDEN POLICE DEPARTMENT Defendant-Appellee

          Appealed from the Twenty-Sixth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Webster, Louisiana Trial Court No. 76, 176 Honorable Jefferson Rowe Thompson, Judge

          BRADFORD LAW OFFICE, LLC By: Reshonda L. Bradford Counsel for Appellants

          PETTIETTE, ARMAND, DUNKELMAN, WOODLEY, BYRD & CROMWELL, LLP By: Edwin H. Byrd, III Counsel for Appellee

          Before GARRETT, COX, and BLEICH (Pro Tempore), JJ.

          COX, J.

         Sharon Jackson filed a petition for damages on behalf of her minor daughter, Z.J., against the Minden Police Department and City of Minden (collectively referred to as "the City"). The trial court granted the City's exception of no cause of action. Ms. Jackson appeals. For the following reasons, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.

         FACTS

         On May 1, 2016, Ms. Jackson took her 15-year-old daughter, Z.J., to Minden Medical Center to report a sexual abuse. The staff at Minden Medical called the Minden Police Department. After waiting approximately two hours for the two officers to arrive, both Ms. Jackson and Z.J. spoke with the officers and agreed to a rape kit testing procedure. However, no rape kit testing was performed on Z.J. Ms. Jackson stated in the petition that one of the officers said he did not think that the rape kit testing needed to be done. Z.J. was discharged from the hospital and no further investigation was conducted. Z.J. was admitted to Minden Medical the next day, on May 2, 2016, after she attempted suicide.

         Ms. Jackson filed a petition for damages against the City on May 1, 2017. She claimed that as a result of the officers' failure to follow mandatory investigation requirements, any chance of securing evidence was lost and Z.J. was left feeling "dejected and drowning in despair." She claimed that the actions of the officers constituted gross negligence, a violation of the duty to uphold public safety, and a violation of the duty to abide by mandatory investigative and reporting requirements.

         On June 21, 2017, the City moved for a dismissal on the basis that Ms. Jackson's petition failed to state a cause of action. The City argued that the duty to collect and preserve evidence in a criminal investigation is directed toward the general public, and does not encompass the risk of harm at issue here-that the victim will suffer distress because the suspect is not prosecuted.

         On September 7, 2017, the trial court granted the City's exception of no cause of action. The trial court found that the heightened, specific duty triggered when the victim is a child in need of care was not supported by the evidence presented in this case. Ms. Jackson was given 30 days to amend her pleadings.

         Ms. Jackson filed her first amended petition for damages on October 3, 2017, expanding upon her previous arguments and listing the following damages: negligent infliction of genuine and serious emotional distress; negligent infliction of mental anguish and emotional distress; loss of enjoyment of life; loss of income; and, medical expenses.

         In response, the City filed an exception of no cause of action, arguing Ms. Jackson failed to state a cause of action because there were no proper allegations that Z.J. was a child in need of care. The City argued it was the hospital's responsibility to conduct the rape kit, and there were no facts alleging the officer ordered the hospital not to complete the testing. It also referenced its previous argument that the police officer's duty to investigate is a general duty to the public.

         On December 5, 2017, the trial court granted the City's exception of no cause of action and dismissed with prejudice all claims against the City.[1]Ms. Jackson now appeals the trial ...


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