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Innocent lives destroyed by negligent police pursuits

Posted by John Hadden | Apr 09, 2012 | 0 Comments

A recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution article took an in-depth look at some of the tragic outcomes of high-speed police chases when innocent bystanders become involved. Focusing on two high-profile cases - the death of Kathy Porter, wife of Atlanta Braves trainer Jeff Porter, and a recent verdict $2 million verdict against Gwinnett County for the death of Willie Allen Sargent, Jr., following a collision with a county law enforcement vehicle that was en route, 34 miles per hour over the speed limit, to back up another officer.

In some cases, police pursuits may be necessary. But virtually all law enforcement agencies, from local police to the State Patrol, have strict guidelines about when those pursuits should take place, which is generally only where there is evidence of a serious crime or a risk of immediate harm. Even in those limited circumstances where a high-speed police pursuit is appropriate, strict rules govern how it is conducted. Sadly, law enforcement officers fail to follow the proper rules and procedures far more often than is reasonable.

Last fall, in the case of City of Atlanta v. Lockett (312 Ga. App. 19, 717 S.E.2d 529 (2011)), John Hadden successfully represented, at the Georgia COurt of Appeals, an innocent bystander who was injured during an Atlanta Police Department pursuit where the evidence showed Atlanta officers violated both the rules governing when a high-speed pursuit should take place as well as the procedure to be followed once the pursuit is underway. As a result, our the innocent bystander suffered serious injuries. The City of Atlanta argued that it was entitled to sovereign immunity for actions arising from the decisions of APD officers leading to the pursuit. The Court of Appeals disagreed, and the case was remanded to the State Court of Fulton County. This summer, John Hadden will lecture on this case and other issues surrounding police negligence and pursuits at a continuing legal education seminar sponsored by the National Business Institute.

About the Author

John Hadden

John D. Hadden is the owner and founder of the Hadden Law Firm. An experienced trial and appellate lawyer, he is author of three respected treatises on Georgia litigation practice: Greens Georgia Law of Evidence, Georgia Law of Torts - Trial Preparation and Practice, and Georgia Magistrate Court...

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