Stand Away From This Car

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Q: I was standing at the scene of a two-car collision.  One car had already left the intersection.  The driver of the other car was clearly shaken and hysterical.  A police officer told her, “Move your car forward.”

I was standing directly behind her car.  She moved it backward instead of forward, crushing me.  I think that the police officer acted negligently when he told the driver to move her car.  She was clearly unfit to drive.

A: The police officer was exercising his discretion when he told the driver to move her car.  For municipalities, the courts have made a special rule: to hold a city liable for the negligent performance of a discretionary act, one must have a ‘special relationship’ with the municipality.

The theory is that officials would otherwise shrink from their responsibilities so as to avoid possible costs to their municipal employers.  The courts protect the discretion of police officers so municipalities will encourage them to carry out their duties in the service of the public.

The police officer’s contact was with the driver, not with you.  Not only was there a lack of a special relationship, there was no evidently material communication or relationship at all.  Without a duty running directly to you, there can be no liability in damages, even if  the conduct was careless or the harm was foreseeable.  The police and you were strangers. Unless you have left out something, the city will not be held liable.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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