Andrew Sadek's family argues wrongful death suit isn't over
In their suit filed against Richland County and Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Weber, John and Tammy Sadek claimed their 20-year-old son, a North Dakota State College of Science student whose body was found in late June 2014 in the Red River north of Breckenridge, Minnesota, was misled when police recruited him to become a drug informant.
FARGO — An attorney for the family of Andrew Sadek, a college student turned confidential informant who died more than six years ago, went before the North Dakota Supreme Court on Tuesday, Oct. 4 , to defend their ongoing efforts to keep a wrongful death suit alive.
In their suit filed against Richland County and Sheriff’s Deputy Jason Weber, John and Tammy Sadek claimed their 20-year-old son, a North Dakota State College of Science student whose body was found in late June 2014 in the Red River north of Breckenridge, Minnesota, was misled when police recruited him to become an informant for drug investigators.
They also alleged Weber negligently caused their son's death by failing to adequately train and protect him as an informant.
Weber recruited Andrew Sadek to work as an informant after he was caught twice selling pot , a total of 3.3 grams, to another informant on campus, authorities said.
In 2019, District Judge Jay Schmitz granted a summary judgment sought by the defendants and dismissed the wrongful death suit. He ruled that any misrepresentation underlying the deceit claim — that the deputy's assertion to Andrew Sadek that he faced a lengthy prison sentence — was a prediction of a future event and therefore was not actionable as deceit as a matter of law.
Schmitz also found that the negligence claim could not be supported because there was no evidence Weber's conduct was a proximate cause of Sadek's death.
Schmitz's dismissal judgment was upheld by a 4-1 vote of the North Dakota Supreme Court in September of 2020.
Following that Supreme Court ruling, attorney Kristen Overboe filed a motion with the district court on behalf of the Sadeks claiming the district court had made a mistake. Overboe's motion also raised issues concerning the duty of care the defendants had in regards to Andrew Sadek.
In response, the defendants asked the district court for sanctions against Overboe, claiming her ongoing filings were frivolous.
The district court denied the Sadeks' most recent motion and granted a motion by the county and Weber to impose a sanction against Overboe of $1,750.
The Sadeks appealed to the North Dakota Supreme Court, arguing the district court made a mistake when it ruled the case was no longer ongoing and when it ruled their motion was frivolous and worthy of sanctions.
Overboe repeated that stand Tuesday, arguing before the Supreme Court that based on rules of procedure "this case is nowhere near done" and that the Sadeks should be permitted to continue seeking redress, which she said is mainly a desire to hear the defendants take some degree of responsibility for what happened to Andrew Sadek.
"In this case, I think the Sadeks, what they wanted is responsibility," Overboe said.
Jenna Bergman, an attorney representing the county and Weber, told Supreme Court justices Tuesday that Overboe's ongoing efforts to keep the case alive remain frivolous and costly to the defendants.
She said the cost of responding to the latest appeal was already more than $7,000.
Bergman asserted that Overboe should be subject to additional sanction, because the initial sanction of $1,750 apparently was not enough to stop the filing of motions.
"Because here we are, rehashing and re-litigating the same issues that have already been decided by the district court and affirmed by this court," Bergman said.
Overboe responded that the plaintiffs have no interest in re-litigating the case because in her view the facts have been established and what remains is the determination of liabilities and damages.
The Supreme Court took Tuesday's arguments under advisement.
Andrew Sadek was reported missing May 1, 2014, the deadline Weber gave the student for lining up a drug deal, court documents said. The student's body was found with a gunshot wound to the head on June 27, 2014.
Coroners did not determine Andrew Sadek’s manner of death, but his family claimed his death was directly related to his role as a confidential informant. Attorneys said it's possible Andrew Sadek took his own life, but the Sadeks' attorney argued the student likely was murdered.
Supreme Court Justice Gerald VandeWalle, who dissented in the Supreme Court's ruling that upheld the district court's dismissal of the case, said in his dissenting opinion that summary judgment was inappropriate.
“I believe the close proximity in time between the May 1 deadline set by Weber, coupled with Weber’s texts threatening Sadek with imminent felony charges, and the date Sadek went missing is sufficient to allow a fact-finder to draw a reasonable inference that the defendants’ conduct was a proximate cause of his death,” VandeWalle said in his dissenting opinion.