St. Louis Suburb Ordered to Pay $3.1m to Victims of Police Chase

On behalf of Brown & Crouppen, P.C. posted in Motor Vehicle Accident on Thursday, June 14, 2012

A verdict from a St. Louis County jury “sends a message” to the village of Uplands Park that its police officers owe it to innocent motorists not to take their safety for granted during a police chase, according to the attorney representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Uplands Park was ordered by the jury in a personal injury trial to pay a total of $3.1 million to the family of a woman who was killed in a car accident during a high-speed police chase. The collision took the woman’s life and injured her children and two other relatives. During trial, the plaintiffs contended that the volunteer police officers who initiated the chase caused the accident by failing to call it off soon enough.

The fatal incident took place on Dec. 3, 2009. The victim, 34, was driving to a relative’s home to help hang Christmas decorations along with her daughter, 12, and son, 7. Also in the car were the victim’s sister and her 5-year-old grandson.

Meanwhile, a pair of volunteer police officers spotted a car allegedly speeding and began pursing it. The officers said the suspect, then 16, was going 46 miles per hour and sped up as they pursued. They admitted picking up speed to try and chase him down. A witness estimated the vehicles passed her at nearly 80 mph shortly before the collision.

The suspect’s vehicle crashed into the victim’s car, fatally injuring the woman and severely injuring her sister, son and grandnephew. The suspect said that the accident was caused when the police car bumped him into the victim’s car, though the officers denied that. They contended that they ended the pursuit and were far behind when the crash occurred.

However, the jury found on June 7 that the officers were at least partly liable for the death and injuries. Jurors awarded damages to each person in the car and for compensation for the 34-year-old’s death. The verdict totals about $3.1 million, though that may come down due to a Missouri law capping damages for personal injury verdicts against municipalities.

The plaintiffs’ attorney said the size of the verdict “sends a message” to Uplands Park and others who use volunteer police forces. The driver of the squad car lacked police certification and has been charged with holding a police commission without a license.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “St. Louis jury awards $3.1 million for police chase that ended in fatal crash,” Jennifer Mann, June 8, 2012

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