Dudley v. City of Hartford
A court can find that a police officer who promptly followed the police dispatcher's directions to cease participating in a high-speed chase was not negligent. The plaintiff alleged the following facts. At 3 a.m. on June 5, 2008, Officer James Rutkauski observed a 1993 Dodge Caravan that appeared to be traveling too fast on Franklin Avenue in Hartford, and he activated his siren and attempted to stop the Dodge. The driver of the Dodge, She-heim Collier, lacked a driver's license and allegedly ran a red light, crossed the yellow line in the center of the street and accelerated to 90 to 100 miles per hour. Officer Rutkauski discussed the situation with a police dispatcher and followed the police dispatcher's instruction to stop the pursuit and turn off his siren. The driver of the Dodge continued to drive approximately 100 miles per hour, although the passengers asked the driver to stop. A 14-year-old passenger in the back seat, one of six individuals who were 13 to 17 years old, was seriously injured when the Dodge crashed into a fire hydrant at the intersection of Main Street and Albany Avenue. None of the witnesses to the crash observed a police motor vehicle in the vicinity. The driver, who pled guilty to misconduct with a motor vehicle, admitted that Officer Rutkauski stopped the police pursuit. The plaintiff mother sued the City of Hartford and other defendants, as the administratrix of her child's estate, alleging that they were negligent and reckless. The defendants argued that they were entitled to government immunity and qualified immunity. The court found that the city's pursuit policy involved the use of discretion and that Officer Rutkauski followed the policy, because he followed the dispatcher's orders to stop the pursuit. The plaintiff mother failed to prove Rutkauski was negligent. Even if he was negligent, his negligence did not constitute the proximate cause of death. The driver's attempt to prevent capture constituted the proximate cause of his passenger's death. The court granted judgment to the defendants.