Monday, April 9, 2012

Innocent lives destroyed by negligent police pursuits

A recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution article took an in-depth look at some of the tragic outcomes of high-speed police chases when innocent bystanders become involved. Focusing on two high-profile cases - the death of Kathy Porter, wife of Atlanta Braves trainer Jeff Porter, and a recent verdict $2 million verdict against Gwinnett County for the death of Wille Allen Sargent, Jr., following a collision with a county law enforcement vehicle that was en route, 34 miles per hour over the speed limit, to back up another officer.

In some cases, police pursuits may be necessary. But virtually all law enforcement agencies, from local police to the State Patrol, have strict guidelines about when those pursuits should take place, which is generally only where there is evidence of a serious crime or a risk of immediate harm. Even in those limited circumstances where a high-speed police pursuit is appropriate, strict rules govern how it is conducted. Sadly, law enforcement officers fail to follow the proper rules and procedures far more often than is reasonable.

Last fall, in the case of City of Atlanta v. Lockett (312 Ga. App. 19, 717 S.E.2d 529 (2011)), Turkheimer & Hadden partner John Hadden won an important victory at the Georgia Court of Appeals
on behalf of an innocent bystander who was injured during an Atlanta Police Department pursuit where the evidence showed Atlanta officers violated both the rules governing when a high-speed pursuit should take place as well as the procedure to be followed once the pursuit is underway. As a result, our the innocent bystander suffered serious injuries. The City of Atlanta argued that it was entitled to sovereign immunity for actions arising from the decisions of APD officers leading to the pursuit. The Court of Appeals disagreed, and the case was remanded to the State Court of Fulton County. This summer, John Hadden will lecture on this case and other issues surrounding police negligence and pursuits at a continuing legal education seminar sponsored by the National Business Institute.

Turkheimer & Hadden is a firm dedicated to obtaining justice for innocent victims injured by the negligence and wrongdoing of others and holding wrongdoers, including law enforcement officers, accountable for their acts.

Turkheimer & Hadden, LLC
Trial and Appellate Lawyers
(404) 890-7200

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