AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Civil Liability of Law Enforcement Agencies & Personnel
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Police Plaintiff: Vehicle Related
A police officer
fell and was injured while climbing down an embankment to reach a vehicle
that had had an accident when the driver swerved to avoid a deer on the
road, resulting in the vehicle leaving the road and coming to a stop on
its side at the bottom. Seeking to see if vehicle occupants were injured
and needed assistance, he did not then know that the two occupants, a newspaper
delivery person and an assistant district sales manager, had left the scene,
leaving a note stating that they had done so and would later retrieve the
vehicle. Granting dismissal of the officer's personal injury claims against
the newspaper distribution company, a New York intermediate appeals court
found that the vehicle occupants, after the accident, had no duty to remain
on the scene or to contact police, and the distribution company also had
no duty of care to the officer. Mojica v. Gannett Company, Inc., #20712/05,
2009-01571, 2010 N.Y. App. Div. Lexis 2505 (2nd Dept.).
A sheriff making a U-turn to pursue a speeding car was struck by another motorist's vehicle. In a lawsuit by the sheriff against the motorist for his resulting injuries, the court ruled that the sheriff, as a plaintiff, could not use a statute providing a legal standard of "reckless disregard" for the liability of an emergency vehicle operator as a "shield" against a comparative negligence defense by the motorist. The reckless disregard standard only applies when the driver of an emergency vehicle is sued or counter sued. Ayers v O'Brien, #204, 2009 N.Y. Lexis 4483
A deputy whose vehicle collided with another was engaged in an emergency operation at the time, based on his pursuit of a speeding vehicle, and his actions, which included activating his emergency lights, pulling over to the shoulder of the road, and initiating a U-turn, did not constitute reckless disregard. The deputy had assumed that the speeding vehicle, which was following behind him, was going to stop in response to the activation of his lights. The speeding motorist, however, did not stop and collided with the deputy's vehicle. The deputy sued the motorist for his injuries. The court found that whether the deputy was a plaintiff or defendant, under New York state law, his conduct was judged by the "reckless disregard" standard under these circumstances, so that the other motorist's defense that the deputy's actions constituted ordinary negligence was rejected. Ayers v. O'Brien, No. 2006-1020, 2008 N.Y. Misc. Lexis 621 (Sup.).
In a lawsuit filed by a police officer injured while riding in the back of an ambulance transporting an arrestee to the hospital, his injury claim was subject to a state statute known as the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), and a court ruled that negligence in operating an ambulance qualifies as professional negligence since emergency medical technicians are health care providers. The application of the statute, according to the court, allows "prejudicial evidence of collateral payments," such as payment of medical expenses by health insurance, workers' compensation, or disability insurance, to be admitted before the jury. The jury in this case found the ambulance company not negligent in an accident causing the officer's injury. The case also involved issues surrounding the fact that the officer did not wear a seat belt while riding in the ambulance, and when the ambulance hit a curb. Canister v. Emergency Ambulance Service, No. B190318, 2008 Cal. App. Lexis 254 (2nd Dist.).
Repair shop from which a pickup truck was stolen was not liable for injuries a police officer suffered in an accident while pursuing the thief. Even though the truck had been left unlocked, with the key in the ignition, the business had no duty to protect third parties from the actions of the thief. Additionally, the thief's action in crashing the truck through a fence around the premises to take it was unforeseeable. May v. Nine Plus Properties, Inc., 2006 Cal. App. Lexis 1648 (Cal. App. 5th Dist.). [N/R]
Lawsuit against county for death of school crossing guard employed by county, based in part on county's alleged negligence in failing to timely repair a malfunctioning red light traffic signal was not barred under exclusive remedy provision of the Florida workers' compensation statute. Aravena v. Miami-Dade County, No. SC04-2349, 928 So. 2d 1163 (Fla. 2006). [N/R]
Police officer injured while driving a patrol car in an accident with an uninsured motorist was not entitled to uninsured motorist coverage under his own personal auto insurance policy. The city was self-insured and did not provide officers with uninsured motorist coverage, and the officer's own policy had an exclusion of uninsured motorist coverage under these circumstances because the patrol car was furnished for his regular use. Enforcement of this exclusion under these circumstances did not violate public policy in Tennessee. Shepherd v. Fregozo, 175 S.W.3d 209 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2005). [N/R]
A police officer injured by a driver's collision with her vehicle during a high-speed chase could pursue a claim for underinsured motorist benefits against her auto insurer. There were factual issues as to whether her recovery for injuries were barred by the "fireman's rule" under Iowa law, since an exception to that rule provides that the officer is not barred from recovery if the person responsible for the police presence engages in intentional conduct which harms the officer once the officer is present. If the collision was an accident negligently caused, there could be no recovery under the "fireman's rule," but the officer would be entitled to recovery if the driver intentionally crashed into her vehicle, so further proceedings were required. Cornwell v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, No. 4:03-CV-40650, 396 F. Supp. 2d 1020 (S.D. Iowa 2005). [N/R]
Police officer who was struck by an allegedly uninsured motorist while in the street directing traffic had no claim under the uninsured motorist provisions of auto insurance issued to the department. The policy's uninsured motorist coverage was limited to employees of the department injured while occupying a covered vehicle, and the officer was not "occupying" a police vehicle at the time of the accident. The officer's uninsured motorist claim was also barred under the "exclusive remedy" provision of the Connecticut workers' compensation statute. Gomes v. Massachusetts Bay Insurance Company, No. 24409, 866 A.2d 704 (Conn. App. 2005). [N/R]
Trial judge improperly directed a verdict and award of damages for plaintiff police officer in his lawsuit against epileptic driver who allegedly failed to take his medicine, resulting in a seizure and auto accident. The officer claimed that the driver's actions resulted in him injuring the officer when he came to the accident scene and removed him from the vehicle, resulting in a struggle. Appeals court finds that the issue of whether the driver was responsible for causing the officer's injuries, as well as the amount of damages were both issues for the jury, and reinstates jury's verdict for the driver. Teklewold v. Taylor, No. A05A0427, 610 S.E.2d 617 (Ga. App. 2005). [N/R]
In a lawsuit by a police officer seeking damages for injuries she suffered at a construction site at which union picketing was occurring, a jury verdict form which asked them to determine whether picketers were negligent in pushing the officer into a vehicle driven by a subcontractor's employee was confusing. The officer's lawsuit was against the general contractor, subcontractor, and subcontractor's employee, and the jury found the union picketers 100% liable for the officer's injuries, even though they were not the defendants in the case. In light of the jury's confusion, a new trial was granted. Helton v. Hirschman, 794 N.Y.S.2d 162 (A.D. 4th Dept. 2005). [N/R]
A driver who was convicted of criminal charges of attempted assault for attempting to back his vehicle into an officer was barred from re-litigating the question of his mental state in a personal injury lawsuit brought by the officer. Appeals court finds that the doctrine of collateral estoppel applied, and that the issue of whether the driver's conduct was intentional had been definitively decided in the criminal case. Carr v. Holt, No. ED 82626, 134 S.W.3d 647 (Mo. App. E.D. 2004). [N/R]
A Florida Highway Patrol traffic homicide investigator was properly allowed to testify as an expert witness in accident reconstruction in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by a deputy sheriff's estate against the owner and operator of a truck that struck the deputy. He testified, based on his work at the accident scene, that the deputy pulled out into the highway when the truck was so close that the truck driver did not have time to avoid the collision. The court rejected the plaintiff's argument that the investigator should have been barred as an expert because a jury would give a law enforcement officer's testimony undue weight. "When a law enforcement officer has been properly qualified as an expert, the officer may testify to matters that are within the officer's expertise." Alexander v. Penske Logistics, Inc., No. 3D02-2793, 867 So. 2d 418 (Fla. App. 3d Dist. 2003), rehearing denied, 2004. [N/R]
Police officer injured by northbound vehicle when he attempted to make a U-turn to pursue a southbound vehicle had no claim for his injuries on the basis of negligence against the driver of either the southbound or northbound vehicles. Northbound vehicle's driver did not act negligently in attempting to proceed past the officer's car before he made a U-turn, and the alleged reckless driving of the southbound motorist was not the proximate cause of the officer's injuries. Officer might, however, be able to make out a claim against the southbound vehicle's driver on the basis of his reckless driving for which he was convicted of a statutory violation. Under New York General Municipal Law Sec. 205-e, proof of such a violation, if it directly or indirectly caused harm to the officer might be the basis of liability, a standard of proof less than common-law negligence. Aldrich v. Sampier, 769 N.Y.S.2d 338 (A.D. 3d Dept. 2003). [N/R]
City was not liable to family of police officer who died from injuries when hit by auto on an open highway. Plaintiff's claim that had the officer had cones and flares in his patrol car, he would have followed proper police procedure and placed his vehicle at a different location, avoiding the injuries, "was speculative." Plaintiff could not use an alleged violation of the department's Patrol Guide as the basis to establish a violation of state labor law for purposes of imposing liability. Forster v. City of New York, 765 N.Y. Supp. 2d 598 (A.D. 1st Dept. 2003). [N/R]
Firefighters' rule did not bar a police officers' negligence lawsuit against a truck driver for injuries suffered by the officer in a vehicle collision as he was driving to respond to a call reporting a domestic disturbance. The truck driver's alleged negligent driving was independent of the misconduct that resulted in the summoning of the officer. Terry v. Garcia, No. C040100, 134 Cal. Rptr. 2d 565 (Cal. App. 3d Dist. 2003). [N/R]
City which was self-insured was required under Connecticut law to provide only the statutory minimum in underinsured motorist coverage to an officer it employed, so that when the officer settled with the motorist for an amount equal to that minimum, the city was not liable to the officer as an underinsured motorist insurer for the officer's claimed injuries in excess of that amount. Serra v. City of West Haven, No. 22992, 822 A.2d 1018 (Conn. App. 2003). [N/R]
Police officer badly injured in vehicle collision with speeding hearse receives $10 million settlement. Data retrieved from "sensing and diagnostic module" in hearse, a "black box" data recorder increasingly becoming standard equipment in many commercial vehicles and luxury cars, proved that the hearse was going 63 miles per hour within two seconds of the impact despite a 45 mile per hour speed limit, and that the driver's braking only slowed the hearse down to 53 mph at the time of the impact. Tiedje v. Weinstein Brothers, Inc., No. 00L12335 (Circuit Court of Cook County, IL.), reported in The National Law Journal, p. A4 (April 21, 2003). [N/R]
Trial court improperly allocated 80% of fault for an accident to a motorist and 20% to the police officer in a case where the officer was traveling 99 miles per hour in violation of the speed limit while responding to an emergency call at the time of the collision. The officer had not activated his siren and therefore was not entitled to a statutory exemption from liability. He therefore would be treated the same as any private person using a public highway for purposes of allocating blame. Appeals court finds equal fault on the part of the motorist and the officer, resulting in an award of damages to neither in their cross-complaints against each other. Bonds v. Emerson, 94 S.W.3d 491 (Tenn. App. 2002). [N/R]
Actions by driver of stolen vehicle in trying to intentionally hit an officer are ruled to be an "accident" by the New Jersey Supreme Court for purposes of an officer's claim for uninsured motorist benefits against his own vehicle insurer. Shaw v. City of Jersey City, 811 A. 2d 404 (N.J. 2002). [N/R]
Intermediate Illinois appeals court overturns summary judgment for cab company in lawsuit by a police officer based on injuries suffered when he was struck by a cab while directing traffic and dragged for several feet. Genuine issues of material fact existed as to whether the cab driver was an independent contractor or an employee/agent of the company and whether he was acting within the scope of his employment/agency when he struck the officer. Davila v. Yellow Cab Company, No. 1-01-4366, 776 N.E.2d 720 (Ill. App. 2002). [N/R]
Police officer could not recover for injuries against driver of vehicle which dragged him as he was trying to make an arrest when he failed to establish, as required by New York state's "No-Fault" Law, McKinney's Insurance Law Sec. 5102(d), that he suffered "serious injuries." Murphy v. Arrington, 744 N.Y.S.2d 255 (A.D. 2002). [N/R]
Police officer could not bring common law negligence lawsuit against employing city based on injuries he suffered during a motorcycle training course, since he was performing his official duties at the time and received salary and medical benefits under the General Municipal Law Sec. 207-c. Brady v. City of New Rochelle, 744 N.Y.S. 2d 494 (A.D. 2002). [N/R]
A New York police officer who was seriously injured when his police vehicle hit a public bus was properly awarded $1,347,500 for future lost earnings in a lawsuit against the bus company, but jury's award of $0 for future pain and suffering was "inconsistent and against the weight of the evidence." When officer's permanent injuries were "uncontroverted," no reasonable interpretation of the evidence supported the jury's decision that he was entitled to nothing for future pain and suffering. Hothan v. Metropolitan Suburban Bus Authority, 734 N.Y.S.2d 632 (A.D. 2001). [N/R]
The determination of whether a vehicle collision was an "accident" must be made from the point of view of the alleged wrongdoer rather than from the point of view of the insured victim for purposes of auto insurance uninsured motorist coverage. Police officer's injury from hit-and-run driver's intentionally trying to run him down in order to escape in a stolen vehicle was not the result of an "accident" under this test, so the officer could not recover under his uninsured motorist coverage. Shaw v. City of Jersey City, 787 A.2d 268 (N.J. Super A.D. 2002). [N/R]
A police officer struck by a motorist while directing traffic reached a $1.6 million settlement before jury selection in his state lawsuit against the driver. Albra v. Euchner, No. 1640/00 (Westchester Co., N.Y. Sup. Ct.), reported in The National Law Journal, p. B5 (Sept. 17, 2001). [N/R]
A police chief injured when a tow company's truck crashed into his van will receive a $1.1 million settlement for injuries which included amputation of part of his right foot and reconstruction of his left knee. Schroeder v. Everready Towing and Recovery Inc., No. 012-00897 (City of St. Louis, Mo., Cir. Ct.), The National Law Journal, p. B4 (Oct. 15, 2001). [N/R]
343:104 Driver of police vehicle had a ministerial duty to activate his lights and siren when passing through a red light while responding to an emergency situation; question of whether he and the city were entitled to official immunity in lawsuit brought by passenger officer injured in collision with a tow truck might depend on whether he did so. Nelson v. Wrecker Services, Inc., #C0-00-1363, 622 N.W.2d 399 (Minn. App. 2001).
342:89 Police officer injured in vehicle accident in car driven by another officer was properly awarded damages against city, based on finding that driver's entering of an intersection at a high rate of speed against the flow of traffic without blowing horn was "reckless"; department memo mandating use of portable flashing lights on unmarked cars admitted into evidence and could be considered on issue of recklessness. O'Connor v. City of New York, 719 N.Y.S.2d 656 (A.D. 2001).
342:90 Jury's award of $1 million for past and future pain and suffering to police officer who was a passenger in a vehicle driven by another officer was appropriate; no recklessness on the part of the driving officer needed to be shown when the vehicle was not responding to an emergency call at the time of the accident. Criscione v. City of New York, 719 N.Y.S.2d 687 (A.D. 2001).
346:155 Tennessee Supreme Court rules that state statute authorizing claims against state for negligent care of personal property does not allow claims for personal injuries caused by such negligence, but merely claims for loss or damage to the property; state was not liable for injuries to county deputy hit by a motorist while assisting passenger with nonoperating car at scene of state trooper's arrest of speeding motorist. Stewart v. State of Tennessee, 33 S.W.2d 785 (Tenn. 2000).
321:140 City was entitled to reimbursement of benefits paid to two injured officers from proceeds of $200,000 settlement reached in lawsuit against drunken driver who struck their vehicle, but such right of reimbursement would not apply against any amount awarded out of settlement to officers' spouses for loss of consortium; additionally, officers were entitled to an award of attorneys' fees and costs under "common fund" doctrine. Gapusan v. Jay, No. D027546, 78 Cal.Rptr.2d 250 (Cal. App. 1998).
308:124 Motorist who injured officer with his vehicle did not have the burden, under New Hampshire law, of proving that it was brake failure rather than negligence which caused collision; officer, as plaintiff, instead had burden of proving negligence. Meaney v. Rubega, 703 A.2d 1384 (N.H. 1997).
311:171 Police officer injured when turning car struck his vehicle as he was responding to emergency call to aid in apprehending hit-and-run driver receives $1.1 million settlement in lawsuit against motorist. Boyton v. Kennedy, N.Y. Westchester County Sup. Ct., #145/92, Jan. 12, 1998, reported in 41 ATLA Law. Rpt. No. 4, p. 126 (May 1998).
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