Sunday, November 10, 2013

Board of County Comn’rs of Teton County v. Bassett case brief

Board of County Comn’rs of Teton County v. Bassett case brief summary
8 P.3d 1079 (2000)

Appellants challenged a judgment, based upon a jury verdict, of the District Court of Teton County (Wyoming) finding that appellants' law enforcement officers were negligent in pursuing a crime suspect at high speeds, in failing to warn appellees of the danger, and in operating a roadblock along a highway.

Appellees were driving toward on a highway when they encountered a roadblock and, at the direction of appellants' officers, passed through it just ahead of the high-speed flight of a criminal suspect, whose car crashed into appellees' vehicle just after it cleared the roadblock. The trial court held appellants' officers to the standard of the ordinarily prudent police officer in similar circumstances, refused to include the suspect among those whose fault was compared, and rejected appellants' claim of qualified immunity. A jury ruled in favor of appellees.

  • The court reversed the judgment. 
  • The trial court improperly left the criminal suspect out of the apportionment of fault calculation, as to find otherwise would have unfairly exposed appellants to the possibility that they would be held to answer for his misconduct. 
  • Further, appellants were entitled to a jury instruction that the actions of appellants' officers could have resulted in liability only if the jury found "extreme and outrageous conduct" on the part of the officers.

Judgment reversed and case remanded; the willful conduct of the criminal suspect fleeing from police was improperly not compared with the negligence of appellants' officers in calculating the apportionment of liability for appellees' injuries. Appellants were also entitled to a jury instruction that appellants' officers could not be held liable unless their conduct was extreme and outrageous.

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