Kentucky Supreme Court Says Police Can be Liable for Chases that Cause Accidents

Kentucky Supreme Court Says Police Can be Liable for Chases that Cause Accidents

The state Supreme Court of Kentucky ruled that law enforcement can be liable for damages if a police car chase causes injury or death to the person being pursued, or to other drivers or pedestrians.

The issue was brought to the Kentucky Supreme Court because of a Lexington case involving the death of a 62-year-old man and his 38-year-old passenger in 2014. The victims were involved in a collision with an individual who was being pursued by police for a potential drug-related offense. The 62-year-old driver died in the crash, while the 38-year-old woman succumbed to her injuries months later. A wrongful death lawsuit was filed against the involved deputy sheriff and a Scott County Sheriff by the children of the deceased driver.

The decision overturns the result of a 1952 case, Chambers v. Ideal Pure Milk Co., which established legal protections for police officers involved in car chases. The 1952 decision essentially excused officers from liability in any damages that arise from criminal pursuits. This precedent was the reason for the initial denial of the suit in Fayette Circuit Court. It was overturned in a 6-to-1 decision.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reported that the Supreme Court cited chase-related accident statistics in its decision, specifically data from 1996 to 2015 that shows a yearly average of 355 fatalities caused by police pursuit. Approximately one-third of the deaths during that period were innocent drivers or pedestrians, not the involved officers or suspects.

The police officer who was the subject of this case was chasing a man who was believed to be a drug dealer when the accident occurred. The Kentucky Supreme Court stated that the officer pursued the suspect “without authorization.” They cited road conditions, “a restless police dog,” and “a broken siren” as additional factors in the crash.

The wrongful death suit against the sheriffs is still underway.

Call (859) 534-9327 or send us a message to discuss your car accident case with the skilled attorneys at Goeing Goeing & McQuinn PLLC. Our consultations are completely free.

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