Oral arg. – COA – Feb. 2, 2017

At 1:30 the COA will hear the case of Miss. Dep’t of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks v. Candace Webb, Tomas Harper and Kathleen Webb.

This is a Tort Claims Act case.  On August 22, 2009, MDWFP officers observed  a boater speeding on the Tchoutacabouffa River. They navigated their patrol boats into the river to investigate and stop the boater. The boater came to an initial stop in the middle of the river in an area that was heavily traveled and used by others. Law enforcement instructed the boater to follow them down river into the nearest straightaway which was a safer area to stop and question the boater. The driver agreed and followed at first but then  turned and fled whereupon it collided with a vessel operated by Christopher Webb, killing Webb and injuring his  passenger Shane Webb. The boater, Donald C. Bernius,  pled guilty to boating under the influence causing death and injury, and was sentenced to twenty years.

The plaintiffs sued MDWFP.  After a bench trial, the court held for the plaintiffs and MDWFP appealed.

The Plaintiffs argue that the trial court’s judgment was correct.

In support of the decision, the trial court correctly found that it was neither safe nor reasonable to order Bernius, a reckless boat operator, to continue to operate his boat around what Delcambre and Thrash claimed to be a dangerous curve. The trial court correctly found that the officers recklessly disregarded the risk of allowing Bernius to operate a boat for at least one hundred fifty (150) yards. The trial court correctly found that the officers deliberately disregarded the risk that Bernius presented and that they were indifferent to the consequences of allowing him to continue to operate the boat. Instead of investigating the cause of Bernius’ reckless operation of the boat as required by Mississippi law and department SOP’s, the officers permitted Bernius to continue to operate his boat. Moreover, the officers allowed Bernius to continue to operate his boat without any restrictions, even though they had pursued the speeding Bernius through approximately two bends on a highly populated river on a Saturday afternoon in August.




Watch the argument here.

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