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Is Police Officer Immune from Liability for Car Crash When Responding to Call from Outside His Jurisdiction?
Where No Mutual Aid Pact Authorized or Required the Officer to Respond
Lea D. Smith v. Vashawn L. McBride et al., Case no. 2010-0809
10th District Court of Appeals (Franklin County)
ISSUE: Ohio's "sovereign immunity" statute, R.C. Chapter 2477, confers limited immunity from civil liability on the state and its political subdivisions (e.g. counties, cities, townships, school districts etc.) for injuries or economic loss a government agency or employee may cause to a third party in the course of performing their governmental functions. In this case, the Supreme Court is asked to decide whether the immunity statute protects a township from liability for injuries to a third party that were caused by a township police officer who was involved in a traffic accident while responding to a call for assistance from a neighboring jurisdiction with which his township did not have a mutual assistance pact.
BACKGROUND: Under R.C. 2744.02(B) political subdivisions are generally not immune from liability for "injury, death or loss to personal property caused by the negligent operation of any motor vehicle by their employees" when the vehicle is being operated within the scope of the employee's job duties. However an exception set forth in R.C. 2744.02(B)(1)(a) provides that a political subdivision is immune from liability arising from the negligent operation of a vehicle by a police officer if the officer causes injury while he or she is "responding to an emergency call" during the performance of the officer's job duties.