MARY JAMES, ET AL.
IBERIA PARISH SHERIFF'S OFFICE, ET AL.
FROM THE SIXTEENTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT PARISH OF IBERIA,
NO. 125919 HONORABLE VINCENT J. BORNE, DISTRICT JUDGE.
David Abraham Attorney at Law Counsel for
Plaintiffs/Appellants: Mary James Richard James, Jr. Sheryl
B. Mullaly Usry & Weeks Counsel for Defendants/Appellees:
Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis M. Ackal Sergeant Stoney Penn
Deputy Jordan Robeaux Deputy Eric Bell.
composed of Ulysses Gene Thibodeaux, Chief Judge, Phyllis M.
Keaty, and Candyce G. Perret, Judges.
PHYLLIS M. KEATY JUDGE.
appeal a trial court judgment granting summary judgment in
favor of Defendants and dismissing Plaintiffs' claims
against them with prejudice. For the following reasons, we
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
wrongful death and survival action was filed by Mary James,
Richard James, Jr., and Sheryl Theodile, the widow and two
children, (collectively "Plaintiffs") of Richard
James, Sr. (James), who died by suicide on March 12, 2014.
Plaintiffs' Petition for Damages named as Defendants the
Iberia Parish Sheriff's Office (IPSO),  Sergeant Stoney
Penn, Deputy Jordan Robeaux, and Deputy Eric Bell
(collectively "Defendants"). After Plaintiffs moved
to set the matter for trial, Defendants filed a Motion for
Summary Judgment seeking to have the case against them
dismissed on the following bases: 1) Defendants are
statutorily immune from suit pursuant to La.R.S. 9:2798.1
and/or La.R.S. 46:2142; 2) Plaintiffs failed to establish
that Defendants owed any duty to them to protect them from
the risk of James committing suicide, nor that such duty was
breached; and 3) Plaintiffs failed to allege or prove that
any action or inaction by Defendants was the factual or legal
cause of James' suicide.
opposed the motion on the basis that the IPSO had
"Standard Operating Procedures and Procedural Orders,
and Generally Accepted Police Practices and Procedures
dealing with mentally ill and barricaded citizens,"
including "Crisis Intervention protocols," which
were allegedly ignored by Sgt. Penn, Dep. Robeaux, and Dep.
Bell, all of whom knew that James suffered from mental
illness, thus contributing to his death.
filed a Statement of Uncontested Background Facts as well as
a Statement of Uncontested Material Facts. Plaintiffs did not
object to those statements of facts. Instead, Plaintiffs
submitted that because Defendants admitted to knowing and
failing to follow the IPSO procedures regarding how mentally
ill and barricaded citizens should be dealt with, their
actions amounted to reckless misconduct to which the
statutory immunity provisions found in La.R.S. 9:2798.1
and/or La.R.S. 46:2142 do not apply. Moreover, Plaintiffs
submitted that the IPSO procedures set out duties that
Defendants were bound to follow in interaction with James,
who had barricaded himself within the residence and who was
known by Defendants to suffer from mental illness. In light
of each of the officer/Defendants' admissions that they
did not follow those procedures, Plaintiffs submitted that
Defendants' actions, and/or inactions, were both the
cause-in-fact and the legal cause of James' death.
Plaintiffs' lack of objections thereto, we now repeat the
Statements of Uncontested Facts contained in Defendants'
motion for summary judgment:
A. UNCONTESTED BACKGROUND FACTS
On March 12, 2014, Sergeant Stoney Penn assisted Deputy
Jordan Robeaux, Deputy Eric Bell and Deputy Eric Boyer in
serving an eviction notice. See Incident Report of
Sgt. Stoney Penn, attached as Exhibit 1; Incident Report of
Jordan Robeaux, attached as Exhibit 2; Incident Report of
Eric Bell, attached as Exhibit 3; Plaintiffs' Petition at
¶ 2. On the eviction notice Mrs. Mary James stated she
feels threatened by Mr. James. Exh. 1, 2. Mrs. James advised
Mr. James stated he was going to kill her, everyone around
and then kill himself. Id. Mrs. James advised Mr.
James has a .357 magnum. Exhs. 1, 2, 3.
Upon arrival, Deputies spoke with the recipient, who was
identified as Mr. Richard James, Sr. Deputies advised Mr.
James that his wife filed to evict him and Mr. James was
served with the eviction notice. Exhs. 1, 2, 3,
Plaintiffs' Petition at ¶ 2.
Mr. James was agitated with the situation, but was
cooperative with the Deputies. Exh. 1. Mr. James asked, if he
wanted to return to the residence to get the rest of his
items, what did he need to do. Id. Sgt[.] Penn
advised Mr. James to call the Sheriff's office and
Deputies would return to assist. Id. Mr. James then
grabbed several articles of clothing and left the residence.
Exhs. 1, 2, 3.
Before leaving the residence, Sgt[.] Penn asked Mr. James if
he had someone to take care of his dog; he replied that his
daughter could care for it. Exh. 1. Sgt[.] Penn contacted Mr.
James' daughter and advised her of the situation.
Id. Sgt. Penn advised Mr. James' daughter that
Deputies would place the key in the mail box for her.
Id.; Plaintiffs' Petition at ¶ 3.
About twenty to thirty minutes after leaving the James
residence, dispatch broadcasted that Mr. James was back at
his residence and stated he was going to kill himself. Exhs.
1, 2, 3, Plaintiffs' Petition at ¶¶ 4,
Sgt. Penn arrived on scene and Deputy Robeaux and Deputy Bell
arrived seconds later. Id. Sgt. Penn knocked on the
front door with no response. Id.
Deputy Robeaux then grabbed the key for the front door from
the mail box. Id. Sgt. Penn unlocked the door and
attempted to open the door with resistance. Id.
However, Mr. James had barricaded himself in the residence by
placing a metal pipe against the door. Exhibit 2; Exhibit 3.
Sgt. Penn then pushed on the door once more and the door
opened. Exhs. 1, 2, 3.
Mr. James came into sight and Sgt. Penn identified himself.
Id. Mr. James then yelled, "if y'all want
me out, y'all have to come get me out". Sgt. Penn
observed Mr. James with a black in color handgun, which was
later identified as a .357 revolver pointed at his chest.
Id. Sgt. Penn advised Mr. James to drop the weapon.
Id. Before Sgt. Penn could talk any ...