Court Decisions

Special thanks to Attorney Andrew Clarke (Memphis, Tn.) and ALERT International.

Get Adobe Acrobat Reader free –  Click here

Scott V. Harris

The court rules that a police officer’s attempt to terminate a dangerous high-speed car chase that threatens the lives of innocent bystanders does not violate the Fourth Amendment, even when it places the fleeing motorist at risk of serious injury or death.

Related Article: &

Supreme Court Sides With Police in Pursuit Case

AELE Article on Decision

Adams v. Speers, et. al.

A case from the Ninth Federal Circuit Court of Appeals that talks about denial of summary judgment based on the officer’s actions during a pursuit alleged to be in violation of department policy and in the court’s own words “….a jury could find Speers to be an officer off on a mission of his own creation, abandoning his assignment, picking up a buddy for no apparent reason except the excitement of the chase, barging in ahead of the police already engaged in pursuit, once attempting to use force against Alan and twice doing so, creating each time a serious hazard for himself as well as Alan, and finally stepping out of his patrol car and, without warning and without the need to defend himself or the other officers, killing Alan.”

Graves v. Thomas, et. al.

A case from the Tenth Federal Circuit Court of Appeals that continues to cite Lewis v. Sacramento and the “Shocks the Conscience” standard. This case also cites an underlying finding from Lewis v. Sacramento in that if there is time to deliberate what action you may take in a situation that could be construed as a Fourteenth Amendment Violation of Due Process issue, the standard of proof may lower to one of Deliberate Indifference.

Waterman v. Batton, et. al.

A case from the Fourth Federal Circuit Court of Appeals that discusses qualified immunity arising out of the use of deadly force by  officers who fired shots at a moving vehicle that was being pursued by other officers. The case also discusses  the information known at the time by the officers and their use of  that information to base their decisions on.

Dillon v. Brown County Nebraska, et. al.

A case from Eighth Federal Circuit Court of Appeals expanding, even more, Sacramento v. Lewis and the “Shocks the Conscience” standard of proof.  There is no pursuit in this case, and, quite possibly not even a seizure.  There were no high speeds involved, no lights and sirens and the officers were merely looking for the suspect to question him on other criminal matters as an investigative stop only.  A collision occurred with the suspect when he came around the corner of an outbuilding riding an ATV. The Eighth Federal Circuit Court of Appeals said that while this was not quite like the Lewis case, it was similar enough to apply the same standard of proof.  They concluded that there were no Fourth or Fourteenth Amendment violations.

Terrell v. Larson

A case from Eighth Federal Circuit Court of Appeals dealing with summary judgment based on qualified immunity for the officers involved.  It is a code three response case.  The Eighth Circuit applies the United States Supreme Court standard of “shocks the conscience”  for pursuits from Sacramento v. Lewis  to a code three response case and tackles the question that Sacramento v. Lewis did not really answer – that is exactly what conduct “shocks the conscience”.  The Eight Circuit reaches some conclusions that may be a little more restrictive than some thought.  The officer ran a red light at high speeds, colliding with a third party.  The officer was driving a type of vehicle he had never driven before.

Pauley v. Reinoehl, et. al.

A case from the Delaware Supreme court that examines the definition of Sovereign Immunity and Governmental Immunity in Delaware and how Delaware’s Emergency Vehicle Statute (EVS) and State Tort Claims Act (STC) apply when a police officer is accused of negligence or gross negligence in a suit in Delaware.

Follow up opinion to the above case by the Delaware Supreme Court (05/05/04) – Click here

Tidwell v. City and County of Denver (CO)

This case is from the Colorado Supreme Court and addresses the issue of governmental immunity.  The officer did not use overhead lights and siren to warn other motorists of a pursuit and caused death and injury to a third party. The lower courts granted governmental immunity to the agency but the Colorado Supreme Court reversed that and sent it back to the lower courts for further proceedings.


An Eighth Federal Circuit Court of Appeals decision wherein the Federal District court is reversed and the officers were granted summary judgment based on qualified immunity for their actions in high speed chase which led to plaintiffs’ injuries. Cites Sacramento County v. Lewis.

Norton v. Hall

The Law Court in Maine has affirmed the lower court’s decision for summary judgment in favor of Deborah Hall. Basically, a police officer in Maine is protected by discretionary immunity in deciding to respond to a call as an emergency. The law doesn’t distinguish between “whether to” and “how to”. Therefore, the method of driving cannot be challenged. The Court recognized this as a problem for the legislature to address. The Court was split on the decision, 4-3.

Motion for Reconsideration

This is a copy of Michelle and John Norton’s petition to the Maine Supreme Court to reconsider the above decision.

Vaughn v. Cox, et. al.

An Eleventh Federal Circuit Court of Appeals case addressing Fourth, Fifth, Eight, and Fourteenth Amendment issues arising out of a pursuit.  Deadly force (gunfire) was used in an attempt to forcibly terminate this pursuit.  This case was appealed to the United States Supreme Court where it was partially upheld and partially overturned.  It was, in part, remanded back to the Eleventh Federal Circuit Court for a final decision.  An important case for us as trainers regarding use of deadly force in pursuits.

Vaughn v. Cox, et. al. on remand to the Eleventh Federal Circuit Court

The Eleventh Federal Circuit Court of Appeals’ final decision in this matter.

Vaughn v. Cox, et. al. (reversal by The Eleventh Federal Circuit Court of Appeals)

Apparently the above remanded case was NOT The Eleventh Federal Circuit Court of Appeals’ final decision in this matter.  They have reversed themselves and decided that the officer involved is NOT entitled to summary judgment based on a qualified immunity defense.  They now say that it is a matter for the jury to make several decisions before qualified immunity can be granted. A MUST reading for us as trainers when discussing the use of deadly force in a pursuit situation.

Hernadez v. Jarman, et. al.

This case is from the Eight Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. In its decision, the court discusses qualified immunity application, justification for use of deadly force and granting of summary judgment.  It involves the shooting by police officers of a driver of a vehicle which they had been pursuing when they pursued vehicle suddenly turned around and drove at one of the officers which had been pursuing the vehicle. Several recent federal court decisions are cited.

Colbert  v. City of Cleveland,  et. al.

This case from the Ohio Supreme Court defines the term “Emergency Call” (under Ohio statutes) and discusses the granting of summary judgment  to the City of Cleveland under Ohio law.

Carter v. Simpson

This case from the Seventh Federal Circuit Court of Appeals deals with Summary Judgment, granted by lower courts, to an officer responding to an emergency call, code 3, and who collides with a civilian vehicle in an intersection.  It discusses Willful and Wanton Conduct, Negligence (under Illinois State Law) and Substantive Due Process (under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983).

Bublitz v. Cottey, et. al.

This case from the Seventh Federal Circuit Court of Appeals deals with the issue of innocent third party liability with the use of spike strips.  There is considerable citing of Sacramento Co. v. Lewis in dealing with the standard of proof needed to prove a Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment civil rights violation.  Also discusses justification for the use of tire deflating devices by police.

Nueces County TX v. Ford Co., et. al.

This is one of the first lawsuits filed against Ford in regards to the Crown Vic gas tank problems.  It was filed in Nueces County, Texas, County Court on July 2, 2002

State of Connecticut v. William R. Scribner

A Connecticut Appellate Court case addressing the criminal aspect of violating a state statute  while engaged in a Code 3 response.  The officer involved was charged with and found guilty of Negligent Homicide after being involved in a fatal crash within an intersection.

Click here for an explanation of Connecticut’s vehicular negligent homicide statute written by Sgt. Sam Hannigan, Baltimore County Police  

Cruz v. Briseno

 A California Supreme Court case re-affirming summary judgment of both the Agency AND the Officer based on statutory immunity even thought the Officer did not use warning lights and siren.

 Brown v. Gilmore, et. al.

A Fourth Federal Circuit Court of Appeals case re-affirming summary judgment based on qualified immunity when the force used to affect an arrest is deemed reasonable

Helseth v. Birch

A new Eighth Federal Circuit Court of Appeals case re-affirming the “shocks the conscience” test of Lewis. A PIT maneuver was used in this case and the court talks about its use. Of special interest is the dissenting opinion of one of the justices. In his dissent, he questions whether the US Supreme Court meant to apply the shocks the conscience test to all pursuits. He also discusses the training of the officer. This case may be appealed to the US Supreme Court to review the shocks the conscience test for all pursuits.

Mays v. Rhodes, et. al.

An Eighth Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruling reconfirming the three-part inquiry applied by the courts in order to determine whether a plaintiff’s lawsuit can proceed against a defendant public official despite his assertion of qualified immunity at the summary-judgment stage.

Scott v. Clay County (TN)

A Sixth Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruling where a passenger in a pursued vehicle was wounded when officers used deadly force against the operator of a pursued vehicle. It addresses appropriate use of deadly force, training, policy, and immunity issues.

Quintana v. City of Westminster (CO)

A Colorado Court of Appeals ruling discussing Sovereign Immunity and talks about the recklessness (or lack thereof) of the officer’s conduct.

Carleton v City of Tulsa (OK)

A 1999 10th Federal Circuit Court of Appeals decision dealing with qualified immunity and is directly related to pursuits. It is yet another citing of Lewis v. Sacramento and examines the intent of the officers involved.

Robinson v Solano County

A 2000 9th Federal Circuit Court of Appeals decision dealing with qualified immunity and use of excessive force. The court diminished the scope of qualified immunity and makes some very interesting comments on the use of excessive force and when qualified immunity applies. While not directly related to EVO, the parallels are there.

Mays V. East St. Louis, MO

A 1996 7th Federal Circuit Court of Appeals decision dealing with a Fifth Amendment un-constitutional deprivation of a liberty interest. Third party injury and death caused by the violator in a high speed pursuit. The court applied the “Shocks the Judicial Conscience” standard.

Brower v. Inyo County

A 1989 US Supreme Court decision addressing Fourth Amendment unlawful seizures stemming from a roadblock. Petitioners’ decedent (Brower) was killed when the stolen car he had been driving at high speeds to elude pursuing police crashed into a police roadblock. Specifically, the complaint alleges that respondents placed an 18-wheel truck completely across the highway in the path of Brower’s flight, behind a curve, with a police cruiser’s headlights aimed in such fashion as to blind Brower on his approach. It also alleges that the fatal collision was a “proximate result” of this police conduct.

Seekamp V. Michaud

A 1996 1st Federal Circuit Court of Appeals decision dealing with a Fourth Amendment un-constitutional and unreasonable seizure. Violator injury in a high speed pursuit where a roadblock was implemented. Loosely tied to Brower v. Inyo County. Discusses what is a reasonable seizure and an unreasonable seizure are.

Onossian v. Block

A 1998 9th Federal Circuit Court of Appeals dealing with Fourteenth Amendment violation of due process. Third party injury in a high speed pursuit caused by the violator. First test case in the 9th Circuit since Lewis v. Sacramento, shocks the judicial conscience decision. Referenced to Lewis v. Sacramento.

Lewis v. Sacramento County

The now infamous 1998 9th Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on Fourteenth Amendment Due Process involving a passenger on a motorcycle who was struck and killed by the pursuing officer. NOTE: This is the 9th Circuit Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruling which was later struck down in part by the US Supreme Court. For their ruling, see the next link.

Sacramento County v. Lewis

The US Supreme Court ruling deciding the Standard of Proof to be met in a 1983 civil rights lawsuit filed under the Fourteenth Amendment. This Standard of Proof is now the accepted level of proof required for ALL Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal to consider. There are many more issues yet to be resolved for us as EVOC trainers under this decision and it is one that is critically important for all of us to understand.

Sacramento County v. Lewis

If the first website link for the US Supreme Court Decision on Sacramento County v. Lewis does not work for you, the above link is another one you might try. This one also has a legal briefs page that you may find interesting.

Zimmerman v. Village of Skokie

For the first time in a few years, the Illinois Supreme Court became every active in shaping the Illinois Local Governmental and Governmental Employee Tort Immunity Act. The court finally resolved the constitutional conflict raised by the judicially created special duty (appears to be the same as sovereign or qualified immunity) exception to the Tort Immunity Act and narrowed the scope of intended and permitted user under 3-102 of the Act.

Sofonda Bradshaw v. City of Metropolis

A 1997 5th Federal Circuit Court of Appeals ruling on immunity (or lack thereof) from negligence on the part of an officer responding, Code 3, to an inprogress call. The officer looked down to turn on his siren (he already had his overhead lights activated) and struck another car.

Cleata Hall v. Village of Bartonville

A 1998 Illinois Court of Appeals ruling alleging violations of department procedures, willful and wanton conduct, and reckless disregard for the safety of others. This case is significant as it talks about some of the decision making processes we must use to determine whether or not to terminate a pursuit. Involves a third party injury and a suspect death.

Canton v. Harris

The 1989 US Supreme Court decision defining “Deliberate Indifference” and what we, as trainers, may be liable for.