A police chase ending in a deadly crash has turned into a multi-million dollar verdict for the plaintiffs against the local police department in the Village of Uplands Park, MO. The police were in hot pursuit of a suspect, who struck a family of 4, killing the driver and leaving two passenger children without a mother. The facts of the case were in question throughout trial. Plaintiffs argued, and testimony supported, that the police officers were in hot pursuit of the defendant driver at the time of the accident. In fact, the defendant suspect driver testified that the tailing police officers hit his vehicle, sending his car into the plaintiffs’ (see St. Louis Post Dispatch article). The defense argued that they had already called off the pursuit at the time of the collision, and the collision, while tragic, was a sole product of the defendant suspect driver’s wreckless conduct. The jury believed the plaintiffs and rendered the $3.1 million verdict against the municipality. Clearly this is a tragic accident worthy of a large award; however, how much will the plaintiffs actually be able to recover?
Missouri, like South Carolina, has a monetary cap on damages caused by municipalities. In Missouri, state law caps damages against municipalities at $335,118 per person (See, Hodges v. City of St. Louis, 217 S.W.3d 278 (2007)). Therefore, even though the plaintiffs received a just award of $3.1 million, they are unlikely to receive much more than a 1/3 of that due to the legislation limiting recovery against municipalities, in this case their local police department. In South Carolina, the law is even more restrictive for plaintiffs. South Carolina limits recovery to $300,000 per person, or $600,000 per occurrence against municipalities. In other words, if the accident had happened in South Carolina instead of Missouri the family would likely only recover $600,000 in liability from the municipality (Boiter v. SC Dept. of Transportation). The logic behind capping torts against municipalities stems from the fact that in the end its the local taxpayer who ends up paying for the negligence of that municipality. However, in a case like that which occurred in Missouri, when the life of mother is lost with small children bereft, it seems unfair not to allow that family to be made whole. It is important element of tort reform that will continue to be addressed in the future.
If you or somebody you know has been involved in an accident, it is wise to seek an attorney to review insurance policies to ensure that all available insurance is exhausted. Please contact one of our personal injury lawyers at Miller|Conway at +843.764.3334. We are a Charleston car accident lawyers located in Goose Creek handling personal injury cases throughout the Greater South Carolina region, including car accidents in Summerville, North Charleston and Downtown and we are here for you when you need us.
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