Negligence Case Arising from Police Pursuit Wreck Dismissed Against State but Spoliation Issue Against City is Remanded for Further Consideration – Loehle v. Georgia Department of Public Safety
Typically, the defendant in a car accident lawsuit is the driver whose negligence allegedly caused the wreck. If the driver was on the clock at the time of the accident, his or her employer may also be named as a defendant through the doctrine of respondeat superior. If the driver who was allegedly at fault was uninsured or underinsured, the plaintiffs own UM carrier may be named as a defendant.
Another possible defendant in a car crash case is the government, particularly in casesinvolving high speed police chases that end in motor vehicle accidents. Such was the situation in a case recently under consideration by theCourt of Appeals of Georgia.
Facts of the Case
In the case of Loehle v. Georgia Department of Public Safety, the plaintiffs were members of a family whose automobile was struck by the driver of a stolen car during a police chase in 2009. The family sued theGeorgia Department of Public Safety, asserting a cause of action for negligence under the Georgia Tort Claims Act. The family also filed a spoliation motion against theCity of Atlanta after the City allegedly destroyed evidence pertaining to the case.
The trial court granted the departments motion to dismiss on the basisof sovereign immunity and denied the spoliation motion against the city. The family appealed.
Proceedings in the Court of Appeals
On review by the appellate court, the court affirmed the dismissal of the action against the department, holding that it had not waived its sovereign immunity. According to the court, OCGA 50-21-24(6) dictates that the state has no liability for losses resulting from its method of providing police protection.
Sincethe plaintiff did not challenge the states policies concerning pursuit, the sole issuewaswhether the troopers who pursued the suspects were negligent in carrying out the states policies. Although the plaintiffs argued that the department waived sovereign immunity because of the excessive speeds at which the chase took place, as well as the allegeddisregard of multiple traffic control devices, the court noted that there was testimony to the effect that the subject vehicle had been carjacked using a firearm, and the trooper testified that he considered the traffic conditions and determined that the danger of permitting the suspects to escape outweighed the potential risk of the pursuit.
With regard to the spoliation motion, the court vacated the trial courts order and remanded the case for reconsideration in light of the correct legal standard as developed in recent case law, namely that actual or express notice of litigation is not required in spoliation cases.
To Talk to an Experienced Georgia Car Accident Lawyer
If you or someone in your family has been involved in a motor vehicle accident, you should contact a knowledgeable Atlanta car accident attorney. To schedule an appointment with the Dennis Law Firm, call us at (404) 850-7951. We offer a free case evaluation, and most cases are accepted on a contingency fee basis. We serve clients throughout the greater Atlanta, Georgia, area.
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