Recent Court Decisions: Williams v. Denver

Municipality Could Be Liable for Police Pursuit Accident, Even If Police Officer Had Good Faith Defense.

Williams v. Denver, 60 CrL 1194 (10th Cir. 1996).

Allegations that an officer responding to a backup request in a non-emergency situation used excessive speed on a major city street and sped through an intersection against a light without activating his siren, in violation of department rules and state law, were sufficient, if proven, to establish a due process violation by the municipal employer on a "shocks-the- conscience" basis, even if the officer were entitled to a good faith defense. There were allegations that the municipality should not have hired the officer because of his poor driving record, which allegedly continued after his employment. The court also articulated a "failure to train or supervise" theory for municipal liability.

"Ms. Williams [plaintiff-innocent third party struck by police] offered evidence that City officials within the hiring process had expressed serious reservations about hiring Officer Farr due at least in part to his very poor driving record. The record also contains several incidents of Officer Farr's poor driving after he was hired by the City. More importantly, Ms. Williams presented evidence that City police officers commonly respond improperly to emergency calls. The district court did not address the alleged inadequacies in the City's driving training generally or with respect to Officer Farr in particular. The City does not argue on appeal that Ms. Williams' evidence on the City's alleged deliberate indifference to the need for more or different training is inadequate as a matter of law, nor can we so hold on this record. Accordingly, we reverse summary judgment for the City on this claim and remand for further proceedings."

Note: As with all the cases discussed on the web pages of LELP, do not assume the law on this subject is the same in your jurisdiction; check with your legal advisor to determine the law in your own jurisdiction and how it would apply in a particular case.

Copyright (c) 1996 Law Enforcement Legal Publications

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