Robin E. Ayling, individually and as parent of Blake Christopher Ayling, deceased, Plaintiff and Appellant
Mary Ann Sens, M.D., Ph.D., individually, as Grand Forks County Coroner (public official); as North Dakota State Forensic Examiner Pathologist Designee (public official); and as Co-Director of the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences Forensic Pathology Practice Facility, Defendant and Appellee and University of North Dakota, a public University of the North Dakota University System, Dr. Mark Koponen, individually and as Co-Director of the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences Forensic Pathology Practice Facility, and Dr. Joshua Wynn individually and in his official capacity as Dean of the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences including the Forensic Pathology Practice Facility, Defendants and Appellees and Grand Forks County, as a political subdivision and its States Attorney David Jones in his official capacity and individually, and its Commissioners in their official capacity as a Board and individually, specifically Gary Malm, David Engen, Tom Falck, Diane Knauf, and Cynthia Pic, Defendants and Appellees and Dr. William Massella, individually and in his official capacity as North Dakota State Forensic Examiner, Defendant and Appellee
from the District Court of Grand Forks County, Northeast
Central Judicial District, the Honorable Steven E.
E. Ayling, self-represented, Champlin, Minnesota, plaintiff
A. Paulson (argued) and Randall S. Hanson (on brief), Special
Assistant Attorneys General, Grand Forks, North Dakota, for
defendants and appellees Mary Ann Sens, M.D., Ph.D., Dr. Mark
Koponen, Dr. Joshua Wynn, and Dr. William Massella.
E. Quinn (argued) and Daniel L. Gaustad (on brief), Grand
Forks, North Dakota, for defendants and appellees Grand Forks
County, State's Attorney David Jones, and County
Commissioners Gary Malm, David Engen, Tom Falck, Diane Knauf,
and Cynthia Pic.
Robin Ayling appeals from a judgment dismissing her claims
against Mary Ann Sens, M.D., UND School of Medicine
employees, and the Grand Forks County State's Attorney
and Board of Commissioners relating to her son's death.
Ayling also appeals from an order denying her motion to
reconsider. The district court concluded Ayling's claims
against the Defendants were untimely. We affirm.
Ayling's son, Blake Ayling, was a student at UND. He was
last seen alive at an on-campus party at approximately 1:30
a.m. on March 24, 2012. He was found dead in the rail yard
south of UND's campus at approximately 6:30 a.m. to 7:00
a.m. on March 24, 2012. Dr. Sens performed the autopsy on the
same day. She determined Blake Ayling was intoxicated, he had
a 0.278 blood-alcohol concentration at the time of death, he
died from blood loss, and his death was accidental.
After learning of the autopsy results, Ayling questioned the
blood-alcohol concentration because Blake Ayling reportedly
did not show signs of intoxication at the party or before the
party. Ayling met with Dr. Sens in April 2013, and Sens
explained the autopsy report and defended her conclusions.
[¶4] On December 27, 2013, Ayling spoke with a forensic
toxicologist who questioned Dr. Sens' methods in
performing the autopsy. The toxicologist believed Blake
Ayling's urine and vitreous humor should have been tested
for alcohol to corroborate the blood test.
Ayling sued Dr. Sens, UND School of Medicine employees, and
Grand Forks County employees in February 2017, alleging Sens
failed to competently perform a medical autopsy as a part of
the investigation of Blake Ayling's death. Ayling alleged
the other Defendants failed to properly supervise Dr. Sens.
After serving and filing her complaint, Ayling requested
numerous documents from the Defendants through discovery. The
Defendants moved to quash or stay the discovery, arguing that
dispositive motions would be filed. The district court stayed
discovery, recognizing "that judicial economy will be
best served by staying all discovery pending the outcome of
the Defendants' dispositive Motions."
The Defendants brought motions to dismiss and for summary
judgment, requesting dismissal of Ayling's complaint
under several legal theories, including failure to bring her
lawsuit within the three-year statute of limitations. In
January 2018 the district court issued an order granting the
Defendants' motions for summary judgment because Ayling
sued more than three years after she discovered she had a
possible claim against the Defendants. The court concluded
Ayling discovered she had a possible claim no later than
December 2013 when she spoke with the toxicologist who
indicated Dr. Sens' autopsy of Blake Ayling may have been
below the standard of care. The court entered a judgment
dismissing Ayling's complaint.
Following entry of the judgment, Ayling filed a "motion
to reconsider and/or vacate pursuant to N.D.R.Civ.P. 59(j)
and Rule 60(b)" relating to the district court's
January 2018 order granting the Defendants' motions for
summary judgment. The district court denied the motion.
Ayling argues the district court erred in granting the
Defendants' motions for summary ...