Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving a plaintiff’s claim against the city that employed a police officer who struck her car while responding to an emergency call. The case presents important issues that frequently arise in Indiana personal injury cases that are brought against government employees or entities under the Indiana Tort Claims Act.
The Facts of the Case
A police officer was responding to an emergency call at a hotel for a person who was unconscious. The officer decided to cut through a parking lot that was adjacent to the hotel’s parking lot. As the officer was approaching the hotel, he pulled forward into traffic slightly so that he could see the hotel from his location. As he did so, the plaintiff’s vehicle clipped the police vehicle’s front bumper.
The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the officer as well as the city that employed him. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that the officer was negligent in the operation of his vehicle, and that the city was vicariously liable for the actions of the officer, which were conducted while in the course of his employment. The plaintiff also claimed the city was negligent in hiring the officer.
Both the officer and the city moved for summary judgment, claiming that they were immune from liability under the state’s tort claims act. The officer claimed that because he was an individual employee who was acting within the scope of his duties, he could not be named in his individual capacity. The city argued that, under the state’s tort claims act, it could only be liable for the officer’s actions if they were found to be reckless. The city claimed that the officer’s actions did not rise to the level of recklessness, and thus, the city could not be held responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries. Regarding the plaintiff’s negligent-hiring claim, the city argued that the decision to hire the officer was a discretionary function, which was also immune from liability under the tort claims act.
The court agreed with both defendants, and dismissed the plaintiff’s case in its entirety. The court acknowledged that the officer’s actions were likely negligent, but noted that in order to prove a waiver of government immunity, the plaintiff needed to establish that the actions were reckless.
Government Liability in Indiana
The Indiana Tort Claims Act is contained in Indiana Code section 34-13-3-3, and provides numerous situations in which a government or government employee cannot be liable for injuries caused to a citizen. Notably, this includes the “performance of a discretionary function.” However, the government must be able to establish that the allegedly negligent act was carried out “within the scope of the employee’s employment.” Of course, if a case against a government employee or entity is not covered by section 34-13-3-3, then immunity will not attach and the plaintiff’s case will be permitted to proceed as normal.
Have You Been Involved in an Accident with a Government Employee?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in an Indiana car accident or any other type of accident involving a government employee or entity, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. At the Indiana personal injury law firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse, we represent injury victims and their families in cases against those who are responsible for their injuries. We have decades of experience handling a wide range of Indiana personal injury matters, including claims brought against state, local, and federal government agencies. To learn more, call 888-532-7766 to schedule a free consultation today.
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