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Surnow v. Buddemeyer

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

May 14, 2019

ELAINE SURNOW, individually and as personal representative of the ESTATE OF JEFFREY SURNOW, deceased; MAX SURNOW; SAM SURNOW; and LISA SURNOW Plaintiffs,
v.
JODY BUDDEMEYER; COUNTY OF HAWAII; and COUNTY OF HAWAII POLICE DEPARTMENT, Defendants.

         ORDER: (1) DENYING DEFENDANT BUDDEMEYER'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT, ECF NO. 94, AND RELATED JOINDER, ECF NO. 165; (2) GRANTING DEFENDANT COUNTY'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS, ECF NO. 98; AND (3) GRANTING DEFENDANT COUNTY'S MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS, ECF NO. 99

          Michael Seabright Chief United States District Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On January 26, 2017, Plaintiff Elaine Surnow, individually and as personal representative of the estate of Jeffrey Surnow, deceased, Max Surnow, Sam Surnow, and Lisa Surnow (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) filed a Complaint alleging claims arising from the death of Jeffrey Surnow against Defendants Jody Buddemeyer (“Buddemeyer”), the County of Hawaii, and the County of Hawaii Police Department[1] (collectively, “Defendants”). ECF No. 1.

         Currently before the court are: (1) Buddemeyer's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on Plaintiffs' Claim for Punitive Damages, ECF No. 94; (2) the County's Simple Joinder to Buddemeyer's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment, ECF No. 165; (3) the County's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings Regarding Punitive Damages, ECF No. 98; and (4) the County's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings Regarding County Departments, ECF No. 99 (collectively, “Motions”). Based on the following, the court DENIES Buddemeyer's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment and the County's Simple Joinder; and GRANTS the County's Motions for Judgment on the Pleadings.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background [2]

         On the morning of March 1, 2015, Jeffrey Surnow was riding his bicycle on Waikoloa Road in the County of Hawaii. Buddemeyer's Concise Statement of Facts (“CSF”), ECF No. 95 at PageID #413-14. At approximately No. 6:18 a.m., Buddemeyer, a Hawaii County Police Officer, struck the bicycle from behind with his police vehicle, causing fatal injuries to Jeffrey Surnow. Pls.' CSF ¶¶ 7, 9, ECF No. 103. In his criminal trial, Buddemeyer testified that he did not remember what happened before the moment of impact during the accident. Pls.' CSF ¶ 19, ECF No. 101; Buddemeyer's CSF, ECF No. 95 at PageID #414. Prior to the accident, Buddemeyer was required to work a “double-back shift, ” which involved a shift from 6:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., followed by a 7-plus-hour break, then followed by a second shift from 10:45 p.m. until 7:30 a.m. the next morning. Pls.' CSF ¶ 8, ECF No. 103. Buddemeyer did not rest between the two shifts. Id.

         On October 12, 2018, Buddemeyer was convicted, following a jury trial, of Negligent Homicide in the Third Degree in violation of Haw. Rev. Stat. § 707-704. Judgment (November 30, 2018), Ex. 9 to Pls.' CSF, ECF No. 156-11. The conviction is currently on appeal. Pls.' CSF ¶ 22, ECF No. 101.

         B. Procedural History

         Plaintiffs filed their Complaint on January 26, 2017 alleging the following claims for relief: (1) negligence, gross negligence, and wrongful death against Buddemeyer; (2) negligence and wrongful death against the County; (3) vicarious and/or respondeat superior liability against all Defendants; (4) negligent infliction of emotional distress against all Defendants; (5) derivative claims against all Defendants; and (6) punitive damages against all Defendants. ECF No. 1.

         On February 6, 2019, Buddemeyer filed his Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on Plaintiffs' Claim for Punitive Damages, ECF Nos. 94, 95. On April 15, 2019, Plaintiffs filed their Opposition, ECF Nos. 157, 158. On the same day, the County filed a Simple Joinder to Buddemeyer's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment. ECF No. 165. On April 22, 2019, Buddemeyer filed his Reply. ECF No. 177.

         On February 6, 2019, the County filed its Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings Regarding Punitive Damages. ECF No. 98. On April 15, 2019, Buddemeyer filed a Statement of No. Position. ECF No. 153. That same day, Plaintiffs filed their Opposition. ECF No. 159. On April 22, 2019, the County filed its Reply. ECF No. 175.

         On February 6, 2019, the County filed its Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings Regarding County Departments. ECF No. 99. On April 15, 2019, Buddemeyer filed a Statement of No. Position. ECF No. 152. On the same day, Plaintiffs filed a Statement of No. Opposition. ECF No. 160. On April 22, 2019, Buddemeyer filed his Reply. ECF No. 176.

         A hearing was held on the Motions on May 6, 2019.

         III. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

         A. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is proper when there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Rule 56(a) mandates summary judgment “against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to the party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. ...


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