Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case discussing an important issue that frequently arises in Maryland car personal injury cases that name a government employee or entity as a defendant. The case required the court to determine if the plaintiff’s case against a police officer and the city that employed the officer could proceed to trial over the defendants’ claim that they were immune from liability under the state’s tort claims act.
Ultimately, the court concluded that the officer’s conduct at the time of the accident was within the scope of his duty and, while it may have been negligent, was not “reckless.” Thus, immunity was appropriate for both the individual officer and the city.
The Facts of the Case
The defendant police officer received a call that an intoxicated person was lying unconscious on the sidewalk outside a Days Inn. The officer hastily responded to the call, and cut through a parking lot on his way to the scene.
As the officer attempted to exit the parking lot, objects in the parking lot partially obscured his view of approaching traffic. Thus, the officer had to pull out into the intersection more than normal. As he did so, his police vehicle collided with the plaintiff’s car.
The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the police officer as an individual as well as against the city, as the officer’s employer. The plaintiff and the police officer both testified, and the main difference between the testimony was whether the police cruiser was moving at the time of the collision. The plaintiff claimed that the officer’s car was pulling out as he struck her vehicle, and the police officer claimed that the vehicle was stationary and the plaintiff struck his car.
Both the police officer and the city claimed that the plaintiff’s case should be dismissed. The officer argued that, as a government employee, he could not be held liable for actions that were within the scope of his employment unless he was found to be reckless. The city claimed that the decision to hire the officer was an exercise of its discretion, which was covered under discretionary government immunity.
The court agreed with both defendants, dismissing the plaintiff’s case. The court explained that the actions of the police officer may have been negligent, but did not rise to the level of being reckless. The court noted that recklessness requires a finding of willful indifference and that mere negligence is not equivalent with recklessness.
The court then went on to explain that the city was correct that it was immune from injuries resulting from a discretionary decision. Here, the court explained, the decision to hire the defendant police officer was an exercise of discretion, and the plaintiff could not show that hiring the officer was an abuse of that discretion. Thus, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s claims against both defendants.
Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Car Accident Involving a Government Employee?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland car accident involving a government employee, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. However, by naming a government employee there are likely additional hurdles that you must overcome. The dedicated Maryland personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC have extensive experience assisting injury victims and their families obtain the compensation that they deserve after being involved in serious car accidents. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
City May Be Liable for Injuries Following Accident Caused by Fallen Stop Sign, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published September 4, 2018.
Court Upholds Accident Victim’s Preferred Venue in Recent UIM Case, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published August 28, 2018.