Allmond v. Goodnight; Public official immunity in high speed chase
In Allmond v. Goodnight the Court of Appeals (on 11/19/2013; unpublished) held that a motorist's claim against a trooper in his individual capacity could proceed. In this case, a trooper claimed that he was chasing a speeding motorist at 120 miles per hour, in a 55 mile per hour zone. Another motorist (in the oncoming lane) turned left in front of the officer, and the two vehicles collided at a high rate. The officer raised public official immunity, which protects the officer from liability unless his acts were corrupt, malicious, or outside the scope of his duties. The plaintiff argued that there was evidence that the trooper was not in fact pursuing a speeding motorist, based on the testimony of two other motorists who did not see a speeding motorist. The officer used his lights, but not the siren. The court held that the plaintiff created an issue of fact, sufficient to avoid summary judgment, based on the testimony of motorists suggesting that the trooper was not pursuing a speeding motorist. The court ruled that the presumption that an officer is acting within his duties is rebuttable.
John Kirby has handled numerous cases involving issues of public officer immunity, sovereign immunity, and the public duty doctrine.