Recently, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a car accident case raising an important issue that comes up regularly in Maryland personal injury cases that are filed against a government agency or official. Specifically, the case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss whether a police officer’s actions were considered a discretionary act. Ultimately, the court determined that the officer’s actions were not covered under discretionary-act immunity, and permitted the plaintiff’s case to proceed against the city.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was injured after his vehicle was struck by a police cruiser that was responding to an emergency call. According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the police cruiser made a left turn against a red traffic signal, colliding with the plaintiff’s vehicle. It was agreed that the officer would not have been able to see oncoming traffic as he approached the intersection, but it was disputed whether the officer’s lights and sirens were on at the time he entered the intersection.
The plaintiff subsequently brought a personal injury claim against the city that employed the officer, arguing that the city was vicariously liable for the officer’s negligent actions. The city successfully argued to the trial court that it was entitled to government immunity because the officer was engaged in a discretionary act that was within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident. The plaintiff appealed.
The Appellate Decision
On appeal, the court reversed the lower court’s decision, and reinstated the plaintiff’s case. The court explained that a government employee’s actions are only granted immunity when they are discretionary in nature. Here, the court held that the officer’s actions were not discretionary.
The court considered two statutes applicable to the plaintiff’s case. The first statute provided immunity to government employees who are carrying out discretionary government functions. The second statute permitted police officers to run red traffic signals only when their emergency lights and sirens are engaged and also required that officers exercise due care for others’ safety.
The court held that the second statute created a mandatory duty for police officers to exercise due care when responding to an emergency. Here, the court noted that the plaintiff claimed that the officer had not engaged his lights or sirens prior to entering the intersection. Thus, under those facts the court held that there was sufficient evidence to show that the police officer did not exercise due care, which would be a violation of a mandatory duty.
Have You Been the Victim of a Maryland Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been involved in a Maryland car accident involving a police officer, fire truck, or ambulance, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a Maryland personal injury lawsuit. As the above case illustrates, these cases often present additional considerations surrounding the applicability of government immunity, and extra precautions should be taken. The dedicated Maryland car accident attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have decades of experience assisting injury victims recover fair compensation for their injuries. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
The Importance of Following the Procedural Requirements in Cases Against the Government, Maryland Accident Law Blog, August 27, 2018.
Slip-and-Fall Accidents at Maryland Retail Stores and Shopping Centers, Maryland Accident Law Blog, September 3, 2018.
Photo Credit: sirtravelalot / Shutterstock.com