Court Addresses Claim for Injuries Incurred in a High-Speed Police Chase

The Supreme Court of Ohio recently published a decision affirming a circuit court’s ruling to dismiss the plaintiff’s case against municipal law enforcement officers after she was seriously injured when a fleeing suspect crashed into her vehicle head-on as the officers pursued him in a high-speed chase. The woman claimed that the officers’ conduct was reckless and wanton and that they should not be entitled to immunity from her claim because of the unacceptable nature of their actions. The final ruling, while affirming the rejection of the plaintiff’s claim, serves to reduce the immunity granted to police officers from that given to them by the circuit court and the Ohio Court of Appeals by rejecting any immunity for officer conduct that is deemed reckless.

Fleeing Suspect Slams Head-On into Plaintiff’s Vehicle

The plaintiff in this case is a woman who alleged that she was innocently driving her car, following all of the traffic laws, when a speeding car driving on the wrong side of the road crashed into the front of her vehicle head-on. The speeding car was being driven by a man who was fleeing from the police, who had been pursuing him in a high-speed chase through the city on roads containing significant pedestrian traffic.

The plaintiff alleged that the act of pursuing the suspect through crowded city streets was done maliciously, in bad faith, or in a wanton or reckless manner, since it resulted in the suspect driving as fast as possible with disregard for civilian safety.

The Plaintiff’s Lawsuit Is Rejected by the Circuit Court

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit in county circuit court in Ohio, naming several of the police officers involved in the chase separately as defendants in their individual capacity. Her lawsuit alleged that the defendants acted maliciously, in bad faith, or in a wanton or reckless manner, and that this level of culpability justified a waiver of the immunity granted to city employees. The plaintiff’s lawsuit was rejected by the circuit court, which agreed with the officers that the necessary standard to prove law enforcement conduct was the cause of a death was whether the conduct was extreme and outrageous. This is a higher standard than the reckless standard that the plaintiff alleged. Finding that the officer’s conduct was not extreme or outrageous, the circuit court granted the defendant’s motion and dismissed the plaintiff’s case. The ruling was upheld by the state court of appeals on the same grounds.

The State Supreme Court Applies a Different Standard

On final appeal to the state supreme court, the dismissal of the plaintiff’s claim was ultimately upheld, although the high court made a concerted effort to reject one of the standards used in the other rulings. The other rulings were based upon a decision that the defendants’ conduct must be “extreme and outrageous” to waive immunity from a lawsuit. The high court ruling rejected the standard applied below and applied the standard that is applicable to other municipal employees and is easier to meet than the extreme and outrageous standard used by the lower courts. The change is one that everyday citizens should appreciate, since courts rarely find police conduct to be extreme or outrageous.

Are You in Need of a Dedicated Personal Injury Attorney?

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in an auto accident, you may be entitled to relief. Employees of government agencies and subdivisions may or may not be immune from liability for a negligent act. Regardless, claims against these types of defendants are subject to specific procedures and requirements that are usually more restrictive than those that apply to other defendants. The skilled Miami personal injury attorneys at Friedman Rodman & Frank can help you pursue a claim against any defendant, including government employees. Our attorneys represent clients throughout South Florida in all types of negligence and injury cases. Call our office at 877-448-8585, or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Appellate Court Reverses Lower Court’s Denial of Plaintiff’s Request to Extend Notice Deadline, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published January 19, 2017.

Plaintiff in Defective Tire Wrongful Death Case Will Not Have Evidence Excluded for Spoliation, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published January 4, 2017.

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