Cert. grant. – Miss.S.Ct. – Jan. 30, 2014 – Tort Claims and reckless disregard

City of Jackson v. Lewistort claims act, police function, reckless disregard – the family of Margaret Stephens sued the city after their relative was killed by a person, LaMarcus Butler, who was being pursued by JPD. In the evening of August 2001, Officer Jackson spotted a vehicle that turned around to avoid a roadblock at the intersection of Monument and Palmyra Streets. Unbeknownst to Officer Jackson, Butler had stolen the vehicle. Officer Jackson turned on his blue lights and siren and followed the vehicle down Capers onto Green and then onto Capitol and Longino Streets. Officer Jackson testified that while on Maple Street, Butler “punched it.” Officer Jackson conferred with his sergeant who told him to terminate the pursuit. Officer Jackson stated that he turned off his blue lights and siren and slowed down, but continued on Maple. He testified that the last time he saw Butler was when Butler’s taillights passed through the Maple/Martin Luther King intersection and that as he continued on Maple, he saw smoke and debris in the air and notified dispatch that there was possibly an accident. Butler’s vehicle had collided with Stephens’ vehicle. Stephens family sued the City. The trial court assessed 100% liability against the City. The Ct. of Appeals reversed. “Officer Jackson undoubtedly violated JPD’s General Order by failing to weigh the seriousness of Butler’s offense against the risk of harm to the public. He was only aware of Butler committing a misdemeanor traffic violation at the time of the pursuit, not a felony. However, the violation of a police policy is not dispositive of reckless disregard.” “Based on the totality of the circumstances, we cannot find that Officer Jackson acted in reckless disregard for the safety of the public.” “The record does not show an unreasonable risk involved that night, despite the neighborhood consisting of parks, schools, and various other places where people are likely to gather. There is also no indication in the record that Officer Jackson was speeding or that there was a danger of harming someone. Therefore, it follows that there was no deliberate disregard on Officer Jackson’s part.”

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