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Masad v. Weber

August 26, 2009

RANDALL F. MASAD AND LORI J. MASAD, PLAINTIFFS AND APPELLANTS,
v.
DOUG WEBER, BOB KUEMPER, DENNIS BLOCK, DARYL SLYKHUIS, OWEN SPURREL, ROBERT RAE, TOM LINNEWEBER, BARB BOLDT, KRISTIN JENSEN, JEREMY ROLAND, RANDY FLICK, JEFF BAKER, DARIN YOUNG, LAUREL PAULSON, DAVID LENTSCH, JODI WIESE, BRAD WOODWARD, LARRY WEINS, JORGENE WILLIAMS, SANDY WECHSLER, TROY PONTO, CHUCK GILSON, HARLAN TJEERDSMA, SHERRY O'CONNOR, NANCY CHRISTIANSEN, AARON MACH, KIRK GREENWOOD, BILL VANDERWOUDE, ANGELA HAWKEY, SAVELLA OLESEN, PAUL KURLE, JARED BROESDER, RYAN FETERL, RICK LESLIE, CHAD STRAATMEYER, CRYSTAL VAN VOOREN, DAROLD DIEDE, JODI STETTNICHS, AND JOHN DOE DEFENDANTS 1 -10, DEFENDANTS AND APPELLEES.



APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE SECOND JUDICIAL CIRCUIT MINNEHAHA COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA. HONORABLE STUART L. TIEDE Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Severson, Justice

ARGUED MAY 27, 2009

[¶1.] Randall and Lori Masad (Plaintiffs) appeal the circuit court's summary judgment in favor of the South Dakota Department of Corrections (State). The circuit court ruled that Randall Masad's (Masad) negligence claim was barred by SDCL 3-21-8 and 3-21-9(5), that application of these statutes to bar his claim did not violate the South Dakota Constitution, and that, as a matter of law, Masad was not a third-party beneficiary of the contract between Catering by Marlins, Inc. (CBM) and the State. We reverse in part and affirm in part.

FACTS

[¶2.] For purposes of the motion for summary judgment, the evidence relied upon by the circuit court was not seriously contested. In 2002, CBM entered into a contract with the State to provide food services for inmates in the South Dakota State Penitentiary (Penitentiary) in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The contract covered all time periods relevant to this case. Masad was employed by CBM in 2003 as a food service director. He primarily worked in the kitchen area of the Penitentiary's Jameson Annex.

[¶3.] Gregory Stephens (Inmate Stephens) was an inmate in the Penitentiary. Before being sentenced to the Penitentiary, he was an inmate in the Clay County jail awaiting trial on felony charges. While there, he assaulted a fellow inmate causing injury, including a fractured facial bone. After being convicted of various felony charges in Turner County, Inmate Stephens was sentenced to the Penitentiary and originally received into the Jameson Annex as an inmate on December 29, 2003. On February 6, 2004, he was sent to the Durfee State Prison in Springfield, South Dakota. Shortly after arrival, he assaulted another inmate with a pool cue and was moved to a disciplinary cell on February 8, 2004. He was given forty-five days of disciplinary segregation as a result of that assault.

[¶4.] Inmate Stephens was transferred from Durfee State Prison back to the Penitentiary and placed in the Special Housing Unit (SHU). Contrary to Department of Corrections (DOC) policy, his institutional file was not simultaneously transferred.*fn1 While in the SHU, he was written up for a disciplinary infraction on February 25, 2004, because he threatened harm to a staff member. As a result, he was given an additional thirty days of disciplinary segregation, to be served consecutively with his previous disciplinary segregation.

[¶5.] On March 5, 2004, Inmate Stephens was moved to the disciplinary segregation unit, Unit A*fn2 in the Jameson Annex. On March 9, 2004, he had a transfer hearing even though the hearing board did not have his institutional file.*fn3

On March 10, 2004, Inmate Stephens was moved to general population in Unit B*fn4 of Jameson Annex. At this time, Inmate Stephens had not served the full length of his disciplinary segregation.*fn5

[¶6.] On March 19, 2004, Inmate Stephens was permitted to exit Unit B, which consisted of exiting his cell, his section, and ultimately, his unit. Each subdivision was secured by a sliding door which was operated by a control officer, whose duty was to control inmate movement. Inmates were allowed off the unit only if they had a pass or were going to work or school. There was no evidence that, on this day, Inmate Stephens was issued a pass to leave Unit B, and he was not assigned to work or school.

[¶7.] After leaving Unit B, Inmate Stephens obtained an orange uniform from a laundry cart and put it on over his khaki uniform. He then approached the kitchen door. Inmates wearing either orange or white uniforms were allowed to work in the kitchen. Therefore, when the employee in the Central Control Room saw the inmate in the orange uniform at the kitchen door, she allowed him to enter the kitchen with no further attempt to identify him. No officer was assigned to the kitchen to provide security. Masad was working in the kitchen area at this time and had his back to the kitchen door when Inmate Stephens entered. Inmate Stephens obtained a four-foot metal stirring whisk in the size and shape of a boat oar and struck Masad's head and body ten to fifteen times. Masad sustained serious and permanent injuries and was hospitalized for approximately a month. He is unable to return to his previous level of employment.

[¶8.] Plaintiffs initiated this lawsuit alleging negligence and loss of consortium against the State and multiple employees of the DOC (collectively, Defendants) in their individual and official capacities.*fn6 Plaintiffs alleged Defendants were liable for the assault because they negligently failed to perform various duties, including classifying Inmate Stephens's risk status, preventing him from gaining access to the kitchen, and otherwise supervising him, which, as a result, allowed Inmate Stephens to perpetrate the assault upon Masad. Plaintiffs later amended their complaint to allege that Masad was a third-party beneficiary of the security provisions contained in the contract between CBM and the State, and that these security provisions were breached.

[¶9.] Defendants moved for summary judgment as to both the negligence and loss of consortium claims based on SDCL 3-21-8 and 3-21-9(5).*fn7 Defendants also moved for summary judgment on the breach of contract claim, alleging the security obligations in the contract were owed to CBM, rather than Masad or any other CBM employee. The circuit court granted Defendants' motion, concluding that Masad's negligence claim was barred by SDCL 3-21-8 and 3-21-9(5), that those statutes were not violative of the South Dakota Constitution, and that Masad was not a third-party beneficiary under the contract between the State and CBM. The circuit court also granted summary judgment on the loss of consortium claim.

Plaintiffs appeal.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶10.] "In reviewing the circuit court's summary judgment, we must determine whether the moving party demonstrated the absence of any genuine issue of material fact and established entitlement to judgment on the merits as a matter of law." Bertelsen v. Allstate Ins. Co., 2009 SD 21, ¶11, 764 NW2d 495, 498 (citing Clark County v. Sioux Equip. Corp., 2008 SD 60, ¶8, 753 NW2d 406, 409).

This case involves both statutory and contractual interpretation. The interpretation of statutes is a question of law. Nelson v. Promising Future, Inc., 2008 SD 130, ¶5, 759 NW2d 551, 553 (quoting Rotenberger v. Burghduff, 2007 SD 7, ¶8, 727 NW2d 291, 294). Similarly, "[t]he interpretation of a contract is a question of law[.]" Kernelburner, L.L.C. v. MitchHart Mfg., Inc., 2009 SD 33, ¶7, 735 NW2d 740, 742. We review questions of law under the de novo standard of review. Id.

ISSUE ONE

Whether the circuit court erred in determining that the Plaintiffs' negligence claim was barred by ...


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