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Uinta County, Wyoming; Uinta County Sheriff Louis Napoli; and Board of v. Judee Pennington

October 1, 2012


Appeal from the District Court of Uinta County The Honorable Wade E. Waldrip, Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Park, District Judge.

Before GOLDEN, HILL, VOIGT, and BURKE, JJ., and PARK, D.J.

NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in Pacific Reporter Third. Readers are requested to notify the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Supreme Court Building, Cheyenne, Wyoming 82002, of any typographical or other formal errors so that correction may be made before final publication in the permanent volume.

[¶1] Judee Pennington was sexually assaulted by Todd Hoover, a Uinta County detention officer, while she was an inmate at the Uinta County Detention Center. Ms. Pennington filed claims under the Wyoming Governmental Claims Act, Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-39-101, et seq., against Hoover, Uinta County Sheriff Louis Napoli, and the Uinta County Board of Commissioners for damages stemming from this assault. Sheriff Napoli, Uinta County, and the County Commissioners are the Appellants in these proceedings. Ms. Pennington is the Appellee. The trial court denied the Sheriff's and the County's motions for summary judgment on claims against the Sheriff for negligent supervision and training, and on the Sheriff's motion for qualified immunity; and also denied the County's and the Board of Commissioners' motions as to statutorily imposed liability. The Sheriff and the County appeal from the denial of their respective motions. Ms. Pennington does not appeal from the trial court's ruling granting summary judgment in favor of the Appellants on her other claims.

[¶2] We reverse the trial court's decision.


[¶3] Appellants present several issues. The Court finds one question to be dispositive and does not consider the other matters presented. The dispositive issue presented on appeal is:

Does the record support the trial court's ruling that Sheriff Napoli was not entitled to assert the defense of qualified immunity?


[¶4] Ms. Pennington was an inmate of the Uinta County Detention Center because she had been terminated from the drug court program and was waiting for a placement in a treatment program. While she was an inmate, she was given drugs by Todd Hoover, and she was sexually assaulted by him.

[¶5] Todd Hoover (hereinafter "Hoover") was a detention officer who worked for the Uinta County Sheriff from 2006 until 2007. Prior to working in Uinta County, Hoover had been a detention officer in Utah for nearly five years. He had no training in Wyoming, but he had been trained in Utah. His training included what were acceptable and unacceptable interactions with female inmates, as well as what would constitute unlawful sexual contact with female inmates. While he was in Utah, Hoover had back surgery and became addicted to pain pills. Because of his addiction, he would steal pills that were prescribed for inmates. Hoover's addiction and related drug thefts were not known to the Uinta County authorities and came to light only because he overdosed while on duty. As a result, the Sheriff conducted an internal investigation, and Hoover confessed to taking inmate drugs. Sheriff Louis Napoli and Hoover both agreed with recommendations that came out of the investigation. These recommendations included two weeks off without pay, extension of Hoover's probationary period for an additional year, counseling and treatment as recommended by Dr. Eric Nielsen, disclosure and access to all of Hoover's medical records relating to the drug theft, and random urinalysis.

[¶6] Hoover met with Dr. Nielsen, who concluded that Hoover could supervise work crews outside of the jail; and that if counseling treatments were in place for pain management, substance abuse, and personal relationships with his wife, it would be appropriate for him to return to work inside the jail.

[¶7] Hoover also met with Patricia Roberts, a licensed clinical social worker, for a substance abuse evaluation. Ms. Roberts recommended that Hoover should take only specifically prescribed pain medication; that he should consult with a pain clinic and follow its treatment recommendations; that he should complete a residential treatment program for controlled substances; that he should continue treatment with his therapist; and that he should be supervised when handling prescription medications at the jail.

[ΒΆ8] The parties disagree as to the extent that Hoover was following the recommendations of Dr. Nielsen and Ms. Roberts. This disagreement is not important because while he was in treatment, he committed the sexual assault, making further progress on his drug problem irrelevant. After the assault, Hoover's employment was terminated. ...

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