Police officers are trusted to be the fastest responders in the event of an emergency. Getting their fast sometimes means pushing or exceeding the speed limits in their cruisers.
But even for those who are highly-trained drivers, speed limits exist to keep us all safe. They aren’t merely suggestions. They are the law. Even law enforcement officers need good reason to exceed those limits. And even then, they must still use due care in the operation of their vehicle. Recklessness can be negligence in the event an innocent person is injured.
In the recent case of Kendrick v. City of Midfield, a woman sued a local city and one of its officers for negligence due to injuries she sustained in a car accident when she was struck by an officer responding to a domestic disturbance call.
According to court records, it was Oct. 1, 2011. A city police officer in Alabama was called to respond to a domestic dispute. Upon receiving word of the call, the officer said he flipped on his emergency lights and sirens and began driving to the scene.
The speed limit on that stretch of road is 40 mph.
Meanwhile, plaintiff was on her way to work, traveling east on an intersecting road, toward the road where officer was driving south. She was in a sport utility vehicle owned by her mother. She was planning to turn left onto the highway where officer was traveling.
There were two intersections where these two roads crossed. As the officer approached the first, the light was read and he slowed nearly to a stop. However, it quickly turned green and he proceeded through toward the second light. It was here that plaintiff was stopped.
Another driver said she turned onto the highway immediately after the police cruiser had passed through the first intersection. She followed behind him, saying he was “flying,” lights flashing but no siren. She testified the officer did not slow down as he passed through the first intersection or he second.
Officer testified he saw plaintiff’s vehicle 30 feet away as he approached the second intersection and believed she was stopped because she saw his lights and heard his siren. He was traveling about 45 mph. Plaintiff said when the light turn green, she proceeded into the intersection. Meanwhile, the light for the cross traffic had turned red, but the officer didn’t stop.
It was only a split second before the two collided. Plaintiff said in that moment, she saw the flashing lights, but never heard his siren. Plaintiff was traveling 15 mph at the time of the collision.
Plaintiff was rendered unconscious by the impact of the car accident and the vehicle was totaled. Officer’s vehicle was sent spinning into an opposing lane of traffic, where he struck another vehicle head-on.
Later, both the plaintiff and her mother filed a complaint for damages against the city (plaintiff for injuries and her mother for property damage).
Plaintiff sought compensatory and punitive damages. She alleged the officer individually should be allowed to be held liable because, the exception to state agent immunity, is when the state agent either acts beyond his or her authority in a willful, malicious, fraudulent or bad faith way. She asserted genuine issues of fact existed as to whether the officer used his siren, slowed down when approaching the second intersection or dangerously exceeded the speed limit.
Trial court did not agree and granted defense motion to dismiss. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed.
In particular, the court took issue with the question of fact raised by both plaintiff and motorist behind the police officer, who stated the siren was not activated.
The case was remanded for further proceedings.
If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at (888) 751-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.
Kendrick v. City of Midfield, April 15, 2016, Alabama Supreme Court
More Blog Entries:
Kozlov v. AWG – Contributory Negligence in Truck Accident Lawsuit, April 1, 2016, Boca Raton Car Accident Lawyer