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Estate of Manstrom-Greening v. Lane County

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Eugene Division

December 23, 2019

ESTATE OF WILLIAM HAN MANSTROM-GREENING, by and through Carol J. Manstrom, Personal Representative, Plaintiff,
v.
LANE COUNTY; LANE COUNTY PAROLE AND PROBATION; DONOVAN DUMIRE; and GLENN GREENING, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Michael J. McShane United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Carol Manstrom is the mother of William Manstrom-Greening and the personal representative of his estate. William took his own life at the age of 18 on February 14, 2017, using a handgun owned by his father, Glenn Greening. Mr. Greening was a probation officer employed by Defendant Lane County and, at the time of his son's death, was required by his employer to maintain a service weapon. As was his custom, Mr. Greening left his handgun loaded on a desk when he went to bed on the night of William's death.

         Both Ms. Manstrom and Mr. Greening were surprised and shocked by William's death. Neither believed William to be suicidal. Despite this fact, Ms. Manstrom brings suit against Mr. Greening and his employer, alleging that they engaged in affirmative conduct that exposed William to a danger that he would not otherwise have faced, and that it is foreseeable that the presence of a loaded firearm in a home would lead to the type of harm that occurred to her son.

         Setting aside the recriminations of hindsight, there are no facts in the record to indicate that Mr. Greening or the County were aware, or should have been aware, that William was suicidal in the time leading to his death. Because William's death was not foreseeable, and because Mr. Greening and the County did nothing to encourage or cause the harm, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         William was 11 months old when Glenn Greening and Carol Manstrom adopted him. Soon after the adoption, Mr. Greening and Ms. Manstrom separated. Manstrom Decl. ¶ 5, ECF No. 83. Ms. Manstrom was granted full custody of William, while Mr. Greening maintained visitation rights. Mitchell Decl. Ex. 37, at 1, 5, ECF No. 81. Two years prior to his death, William moved in with his father without any modification to the custodial agreement established at the time of his parent's divorce. Greening Decl. ¶ 4, ECF No. 65.

         On the morning of February 14, 2017, William used his father's duty weapon to take his own life. William was 18 years old. His father was a probation officer employed by Lane County Parole and Probation (“Lane County”). Greening Decl. ¶ 3. Lane County required all probation officers to carry a firearm while on-duty, but the firearm could either be owned by the county or personally owned by the probation officer. Dumire dep. 102:5-15. Mr. Greening's firearm was a handgun that he personally owned and, in addition to possessing it at work, he concurrently used it at home for his personal security.

         When Mr. Greening initially came home from work on February 13, 2017, he placed the handgun in a locked safe. Greening dep. 41:16-25.[1] Later that evening, Mr. Greening removed the firearm from the safe and placed it on a desk in the living room of his home. Id. at 42:24- 43:5; 45:18-23. According to his own testimony, Mr. Greening regularly left the handgun on the desk in the living room for two reasons: (1) to provide home security; and (2) to allow him to more easily prepare for work. Id. at 43:3-5; 44:1-6. Mr. Greening did not sleep in the same room as where he stored his handgun and did not wake up when William committed suicide. Mitchell Decl., Ex. 36 at 1, 3-4. Mr. Greening only discovered that the firearm was missing as he was getting ready for work. Id. Mr. Greening told arriving officers that he would “never forgive himself for leaving that gun out.” Bremer dep. 30:13-21.

         At the time of William's death, Lane County lacked any policy regarding the storage of duty weapons outside of the workplace. Dumire dep. 114:25-115:4, 115:16-19; Greening dep. 18:19-23. After the filing of the present lawsuit, Lane County enacted a new safe storage policy requiring that firearms be secured from unauthorized individuals - i.e., in a locked safe, secured with a trigger lock, or disassembled - when the officer is off-duty. Dumire dep. 52:14-25; Mitchell Decl., Ex. 21 at 9.

         The Plaintiff makes note of the fact that Mr. Greening had relinquished his right to carry a firearm in 2004 after failing a psychological evaluation in connection with concerns raised by Ms. Manstrom. Eaton dep. 39:3-12. It was not until 2012 that Lane County rearmed Mr. Greening. Greening dep. 86:4-7; 87:1-4. Lane County never administered a subsequent psychological evaluation to Mr. Greening prior to rearming him. Id. Mr. Greening testified that he informed his superiors why he was disarmed in 2004, yet multiple individuals in charge of rearming Mr. Greening could not recall if they were aware that Mr. Greening had failed a psychological exam. Compare Greening dep. 86:4-88:19 with Brown dep. 26:20-27:8, 29:19-30:18 and Fox dep. 13:16-19, 14:1-3. There is nothing in the record to suggest that Mr. Greening suffered from mental instability at the time of William's death.

         STANDARDS

         “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. An issue is “genuine” if a reasonable jury could return a verdict in favor of the non-moving party. Rivera v. Phillip Morris, Inc., 395 F.3d 1142, 1146 (9th Cir. 2005) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A fact is “material” if it could affect the outcome of the case. Id. The Court reviews evidence and draws inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Miller v. Glenn Miller Prods., Inc., 454 F.3d 975, 988 (9th Cir. 2006) (quoting Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541, 552 (1999)). When the moving party has met its burden, the non-moving party must present “specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)).

         DISCUSSION

         All Defendants move for summary judgment on Plaintiff's due process claims and Mr. Greening moves for summary judgment on Plaintiff's wrongful death/ negligence claim.

         I. Due Process: State-Created Danger

         Plaintiff argues that Lane County, Donovan Dumire, [2] and Mr. Greening undertook affirmative conduct that exposed Mr. Manstrom-Greening to a danger he would not otherwise have faced. Defendants counter that ...


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