As Carolyn White left a therapy appointment on June 12, 2014 and pulled onto Douglas Ave. in Alamonte Springs, her car was struck by the driver of a stolen vehicle. He was being pursued in a high speed chase. Rolando Martinez sideswiped her car while trying to pass around her, lost control, slammed into a tree and died.
Click Orlando, Channel 6 News provided a video clip with details and visuals of the pursuit and accident that resulted in Rolando's death. Fortunately, Carolyn White did not appear to be seriously injured. However, she had just received therapy for her shoulder and it ached from the impact of airbag deployment during the accident.
Who is liable for damages that result from a high speed chase? The other driver? The police?
In most cases, the fleeing driver is liable. On rarer occasions, the police may be liable. In 1992, the Florida Supreme Court ruled on City of Pinellas Park v. Brown, a high speed pursuit landmark case. Facts regarding the chase included:
- Pursuit covered 24 miles in Pinellas County through St. Petersburg and urban areas surrounding Clearwater
- Cars in the chase went through 34 separate traffic signals, some ignored by all parties in the chase
- As many as 20 police vehicles participated, traveling at speeds between 80 and 120 miles per hour, forming a caravan of police cars
- Deputies had disregarded orders to end the pursuit
The driver fleeing from authorities crashed into the Brown's car as it entered the intersection. Susan Brown died instantly and Judith Brown died three days later. The surviving family sued law enforcement.
Weighing police sovereign immunity against proximate cause, the Supreme Court assumed the driver's misconduct would also have ceased if law enforcement had ceased the pursuit. The officers had proximate cause in the accident. The case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.
Whenever a car accident causes serious injuries, seek legal representation from an experienced Florida accident attorney.