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It is only when it can be said that reasonable persons could reach but one conclusion from the same evidence that an issue may be decided as one of law. Summary judgment should never be granted merely because the court may believe movant will prevail if the action is tried on the merits.
Appellant Silvino Gomez brought an action against appellees, county commissioner and Board of County Commissioners of Shawnee County (board), for damages resulting from a verbal tirade by appellee county commissioner. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of appellees, ruling that, as a matter of law, no assault occurred. The trial court also determined that appellant did not have a cause of action for the claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress and defamation. Appellant sought review.
Did the trial court err in granting summary judgment in favor of appellees?
Yes, with respect to appellant’s claims of assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress. No, with respect to appellant’s defamation claims.
The court reversed the trial court's summary judgment order as to appellant's claims of assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED), but affirmed the trial court's order as to the defamation and 42 U.S.C.S.§ 1983 claims. The court held that it could not say that reasonable persons could have reached but one conclusion from the evidence presented as to the assault and IIED claims. However, summary judgment for appellees was proper as to the defamation claim because although objectionable, appellee county commissioner's words did not constitute slander per se, and appellant was not entitled to recover for slander per quod because there was no evidence of special damages. Summary judgment regarding appellee board was also proper because the doctrine of respondeat superior did not apply because there was no principal and agent relationship between appellees.