Earlier this month, an appellate court in Ohio issued a written opinion in a personal injury case brought by a woman who was seriously injured when her vehicle was struck by the subject of a high-speed chase initiated by police. In the case, Agrabrite v. Neer, the court concluded that since the police officers’ actions were not “wanton or reckless conduct,” the officers were entitled to government immunity.
Agrabrite was seriously injured when her car was struck head-on by another motorist’s vehicle. At the time of the collision, the other motorist was being chased by police on suspicion of having committed a burglary. The fleeing suspect died in the car accident. Agrabrite filed a personal injury lawsuit against the police department.
Agrabrite knew that she would have to overcome the presumptive immunity that exists to protect government officials, so in her complaint, she alleged that the police officers’ actions were “willful, wanton, reckless, or malicious.” Under the applicable state law, if the court determined that the officers’ conduct was “willful, wanton, reckless, or malicious,” government immunity would not apply to the officers, and the case could proceed to a trial at which a jury may find the officers liable for Agrabrite’s injuries.