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Tort Claims Act does not grant immunity for reckless conduct

January 27, 2012

The Indiana Court of Appeals held the Tort Claims Act does not grant immunity to law enforcement officers who fail to exercise reasonable care while driving.

In City of Indianapolis v. Rhodora Earl, No. 49A02-1102-PL-89, Rhodora Earl was seriously injured when a high-speed police pursuit ended with the suspect crashing into her car. Earl sued the city for her injuries, and in her amended complaint, she alleged the city was liable for her injuries because Indianapolis Police Officer Shannon Harmon continued chasing the suspect without regard to the safety of other drivers or pedestrians in a high-traffic area.

The city appealed the trial court’s denial of its motion for summary judgment, citing the law enforcement provision of Indiana’s Tort Claims Act. The COA held that while the law enforcement provision does grant immunity for certain actions that occur in the line of duty, an officer still has an obligation to exercise sound judgment.

Citing the Indiana Supreme Court opinion in Patrick v. Miresso, 848 N.E.2d 1083, 1084 (Ind. 2006), the appellate court wrote that a governmental unit and its police officer are not immune from liability for injuries caused by the officer’s negligent operation of a police vehicle while pursuing a fleeing suspect. It therefore affirmed the decision of the trial court.

 

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