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Police Pursuit

Tom Hale successfully defended an Alabama city and one of its police officers in a lawsuit arising from the officer’s pursuit of a criminal suspect driving a stolen vehicle.

A BOLO was issued that the suspect was traveling toward the city. A short time later, the suspect was seen driving in the city at a high rate of speed and violating multiple other laws. The subject officer began pursuing the suspect, but the suspect refused to stop and, instead, increased his speed and the distance between himself and the officer. The suspect eventually rounded a curve on the wrong side of the road and collided head-on with another vehicle. The driver of the other vehicle and his passenger were seriously injured in the accident.

The driver and passenger of the other vehicle filed suit against the police officer and the city claiming that the officer should have terminated his pursuit of the suspect because the continued pursuit “pushed” the suspect to continue his reckless behavior causing the collision. After some limited discovery allowed by the court about the city’s pursuit policies, the Firm filed for the officer and the city a motion for summary judgment on grounds that (1) the United States Supreme Court has established that a police officer’s termination of a pursuit of a fleeing suspect provides no certainty that the suspect will cease his reckless driving; (2) police officers are not required to allow a fleeing suspect to get away; and (3) the video evidence of the accident proved there was no contact with the officer’s vehicle and the vehicle involved in the collision, so the officer could not have been the proximate cause of the collision. The court agreed and granted judgment in favor of the city and the police officer on all of the plaintiffs’ claims.

This case appears to be among the very first in Alabama in which claims against a municipality and its agent were dismissed at the earliest possible stage based on minimal discovery and the strength of clear and uncontroverted video evidence.

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