RI high speed police chase lawyer, David Slepkow sets forth a very unique motorcycle, car and motor vehicle crash decision by the United States Supreme Court. The tort case is COUNTY OF SACRAMENTO et al. v. LEWIS, et al., PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVES OF THE ESTATE OF LEWIS, DECEASED, 523 U.S. 833 (1998), see also, Cornell
A Supreme Court tort case
It is rare for the US Supreme Court to weigh in on a tort claim because such negligence car / motorcycle collision wrongful death claims rarely have constitutional implications. However, this negligence decision is actually applicable to Rhode Island car, truck, van and motorcycle accidents involving police chases.
If you were injured in an auto accident in Rhode Island and Providence Plantations then it is important that you contact an East Providence automobile accident lawyer. If a loved one, spouse, child or parent died as a result of a fatal motor vehicle crash in Rhode Island then you should seek out one of the best RI wrongful death attorneys. An experienced, Providence wrongful death lawyer will help you get the compensation your family deserves as a result of this deadly, fatal tragedy.
Police chase liability
Police officer’s in Rhode Island and across the United States, sometimes, get so caught up in the emotions of a high speed auto chase they fail to take into consideration that they are endangering men , woman and children who can be casualties of these reckless decisions. In some cases, it would be prudent for an officer to make a decision that capturing the offending suspect does not warrant the possibility of killing innocent motorists, bystanders, passengers and pedestrians.
In some cases high speed pursuits by authorities are justified when a suspect poses an imminent risk to the public and is fleeing from the police. In the County of Sacremento case there was a very serious motor vehicle accident in Sacramento as a result of a wild, out of control high speed police pursuit. A couple of police officers responded to the scene of a melee. After resolving the brouhaha, the officers proceeded to their police patrol motor vehicle. The officers witnessed a motorcycle speeding down the street towards them. The motorcyclist operating the bike was an 18 year old teen who was carrying a 16 year old passenger. Id. This speeding motorcycle was totally unrelated to the fisticuffs.
High speed police chase
The patrolmen attempted to stop the motorcycle, but were unable to do so. The officer “turned on his overhead rotating lights, yelled to the boys to stop, and pulled his patrol car closer to Smith’s, attempting to pen the motorcycle in.” Id. The young man did not stop his motorcycle in response to the officer’s directions.
According to the United States Supreme Court: “Stapp turned on his overhead rotating lights, yelled to the boys to stop, and pulled his patrol car closer to Smith’s, attempting to pen the motorcycle in. Instead of pulling over in response to Stapp’s warning lights and commands, Willard slowly maneuvered the motorcycle between the two police cars and sped off. Smith immediately switched on his own emergency lights and siren, made a quick turn, and began pursuit at high speed. For 75 seconds over a course of 1.3 miles in a residential neighborhood, the motorcycle wove in and out of oncoming traffic, forcing two cars and a bicycle to swerve off the road. The motorcycle and patrol car reached speeds up to 100 miles an hour, with Smith following at a distance as short as 100 feet; at that speed, his car would have required 650 feet to stop.” Id.
High Speed police chases are often deadly to innocent pedestrians, motorists and civilians
“The chase ended after the motorcycle tipped over as Willard tried a sharp left turn. By the time Smith slammed on his brakes, Willard was out of the way, but Lewis was not. The patrol car skidded into him at 40 miles an hour, propelling him some 70 feet down the road and inflicting massive injuries. Lewis was pronounced dead at the scene.” Id.
Sadly, the passenger of the motorcyclist who may be an innocent victim was killed as a result of overzealous police officers. Should the police have backed off this chase because the chase posed imminent risk to the public, pedestrians and others operating automobiles on the roads and highways.
The issue before the United States Supreme Court “whether a police officer violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of substantive due process by causing death through deliberate or reckless indifference to life in a high-speed automobile chase aimed at apprehending a suspected offender.”
High speed dangers
Decision of the United States Supreme Court: “We answer no, and hold that in such circumstances only a purpose to cause harm unrelated to the legitimate object of arrest will satisfy the element of arbitrary conduct shocking to the conscience, necessary for a due process violation.” Id. The Court reasoned: “A police officer deciding whether to give chase must balance on one hand the need to stop a suspect and show that flight from the law is no way to freedom, and, on the other, the highs speed threat to all those within stopping range, be they suspects, their passengers, other drivers, or bystanders.” Id. See: Campbell v. White, 916 F. 2d 421, 423 (CA7 1990) (“…police officer accidentally struck and killed a fleeing motorcyclist during a high-speed pursuit”) Id. See, e. g., Frye v. Akron, 759 F. Supp. 1320, 1324 (ND Ind. 1991) (“parents of a motorcyclist who was struck and killed by a police car during a high-speed pursuit could sue under substantive due process because no Fourth Amendment seizure took place”) Id.
Police in Missouri were pursuing a 2008 yellow Suzuki 600 motorcycle driven by a motorcyclist who was evading the police recklessly. The bike was going in a westerly direction when a 1994 Chevrolet Silverado Pickup Truck was turning left. The trucker unknowingly pulled into the path of the offending motorcyclist. Sadly, the biker paid for his transgressions with his life as he was killed in the motor vehicle wreck. The truck sustained heavy damage and the motorcycle was also destroyed. Info
“Providence, Rhode Island, police say they’re looking for man who got away from officers after a high-speed chase that ended with a crash in Warwick.” NECN