I. Summary.

In the summer of 1996 the Michigan Law Revision Commission issued a special report on gross negligence in Michigan. A section of that special report addressed the question of police officer liability for claims arising out of high-speed pursuits. Although the literature on accident rates in high speed pursuits is sparse and the research on the subject not especially noteworthy for its comprehensiveness, research from the 1980s indicates that nationwide property damage occurs in about one of every five pursuits, personal injury in one out of seven, and death in approximately one out of every thirty-five pursuits.(2) One respondent to this Report, the Michigan Municipal Risk isk Management Authority (MMRMA) noted that its members have been sued 79 times for claims brought by innocent third parties arising out of high-speed pursuits. In the ten most serious accidents, 11 persons died and five were injured, with payments by MMRMA of nearly $15 million in settlement of claims and satisfaction of judgments, with an additional $1 million in fees and court costs.

In response to the complex problem of high speed pursuit by police, some states have enacted legislation requiring police departments to issue written guidelines for its officers regarding exceeding speed limits when in pursuit of actual or suspected violators,(3) but still hold officers liable for ordinary negligence. Other her states have extended absolute immunity to police officers involved in high speed pursuit, or have extended qualified immunity provided the officers' conduct is not grossly negligent.(4)

This special report was distributed to interested persons in the Michigan legal community, including members of the Michigan State Bar Association and law professors at the five Michigan law schools. The most active respondent has been the Michigan Municipal Risk Management Authority (MMRMA), created by the Legislature and authorized to provide risk management and financing services to local units of government in Michigan. The MMRMA represents approximately 30 percent of the 475 police agencies in the State. The MMRMA's response to the Commission's special report, and a proposed amendment to the Government Tort Liability Act, is attached as Appendix A.

The MMRMA endorses a proposal that the GTLA, M.C.L. § 691.1407, be amended to provide tort immunity to police officers and their employers from claims arising out high-speed pursuits, coupled with a provision for compensation to innocent third persons for personal injury or property damage according to a fixed schedule.

II. Introduction.

The subject of government tort claims and liability is of special interest to the Michigan Law Revision Commission, especially as it relates to the issue of liability for police officers and their employers for injuries resulting from high-speed pursuits. This study report examines the issue of police officer liability in high-speed pursuit cases under the gross negligence standard contained in the Government Tort Liability Act (GTLA).(5) The report includes a 50-state survey on government ent employee immunity and the standards other states use for imposing liability on government employees, be it ordinary negligence, gross negligence, or willful misconduct. With varying qualifications, three states -- Nebraska, Pennsylvania, and California -- have extended absolute immunity to police officers for claims arising out of high-speed pursuits.

Of special note is the case law development of police officer liability under the GTLA's gross negligence standard.(6) Prior to the 1986

amendments to the GTLA -- where the standard of recovery against individual government employees was ordinary negligence(7) -- the Michigan Supreme Court showed great solicitude for for the dilemma that police officers often confront in situations calling for quick and decisive action:

Police officers, especially when faced with a potentially dangerous situation, must be given a wide degree of discretion in determining what type of action will best ensure the safety of the individuals involved and the general public, the cessation of unlawful activity, and the apprehension of wrongdoers. The determination of what type of action to take . . . is entitled to immunity. Once that decision has been made, however, the execution thereof must be performed in a proper manner . . . .(8)

The Legislature responded sympathetically to these concerns when it adopted the 1986 GTLA amendments. It must be remembered that cases addressing police officer immunity and liability under the pre-1986 version of the GTLA(9) -- which made ordinary negligence the standard of liability ity for individual government employees, and still does for government employers in cases involving automobile negligence -- would today undergo a more rigorous screening under the statutory gross negligence standard. One of those pre-1986 cases, Frohman v. City of Detroit,(10) is particularly noteworthy for its candor. In the aftermath of a high-speed chase, the pursued vehicle entered an intersection striking the plaintiff's car. Although the police officer was not personally liable because he acted in the course of his employment and was performing a discretionary act, the Court of Appeals was nevertheless constrained to find the City of Detroit vicariously liable for the officer's negligence under the motor vehicle exception to governmental immunity. In so holding, the Court of Appeals issued the following invitation:

We invite the Supreme Court or Legislature to establish a bright line test which provides that a decision to engage in pursuit, as a matter of law, cannot be the basis of a claim of negligence. Only when the officer's driving itself is a direct cause of an injury would the question of negligence be submitted as a fact question to the jury. The determination should not turn on how the officer was conducting the pursuit, but rather on what effect the manner in which the officer drove his vehicle had on the cause of the accident.(11)

It appears that the court's invitation has been declined by the Supreme Court. In 1994, in Dedes v. Asch, that Court held that the use of the definite article "the" before "proximate cause" in M.C.L. § 691.1407(2)(c), M.S.A. § 3.996(107)(2)(c), could not limit a plaintiff's recovery in a case in which a government employee is grossly negligent and the plaintiff or some third party is also a cause of the accident.(12)

III. Michigan Case Law Developments Under the 1986 GTLA Amendments.

Five Court of Appeals' decisions have addressed the liability of police officers under the 1986 GTLA amendments. Two of three recent Court of Appeals' decisions involving the individual liability of police officers have turned on the issue of whether the police officer breached a duty owed to the plaintiff. The third turned on the issue of whether the police officer acted in a grossly negligent manner as a matter of law.

In the first of the two duty cases, Jackson v. Oliver,(13) the issue was whether the representative of a driver of a vehicle who is killed while fleeing ing police who are in hot pursuit has a claim for wrongful death. The court in Jackson v. Oliver held that police officers in pursuit of a suspect did not owe the suspect a duty to refrain from chasing the suspect at speeds dangerous to the suspect.

In the second breach of duty case, White v. Humbert,(14) the Court of Appeals concluded that a police officer who is at the scene of a reported ted crime, is informed of the danger to a specific victim, and is in a position to render possible assistance owes a specific duty to the victim so that the public duty doctrine(15) does not apply. The court in that case was careful to stress ess that "this does not make the police the guarantor of the safety of every crime victim. . . . [T]he officer is immune unless his conduct rises to the level of gross negligence."(16)

In a case dealing specifically with the issue of gross negligence, Brown v. Shavers,(17) a robbery victim was caught in the cross-fire between an off-duty police officer and the the suspect. The court concluded that the officer's decision to draw his weapon and confront the robber was discretionary and entitled to immunity, and that once the officer was fired upon he was entitled to defend himself. The court concluded that "it is clear that plaintiff has set forth nothing that can be characterized as gross negligence."(18)

The fourth and fifth cases were both decided on September 10, 1986, involved the identical issue, but reached opposite conclusions on the question of whether police officers engaged in a high-speed pursuit owe a duty of care to passengers in the fleeing vehicle. In Cooper v. Wade,(19) the Court of Appeals declined to extend the holding of of Jackson v. Oliver, supra, to passengers in a pursued vehicle, and concluded that a duty of care is owed to such passengers. The Court added that "a limitation of liability must come, if at all, from the Legislature or from the Supreme Court's narrowing of Fiser [v. Ann Arbor, 417 Mich. 461, 339 N.W.2d 413 (1983), holding the a government employer can be held liable for the negligent operation of a motor vehicle by one of its employees]."(20) In the other case, In the Matter of the Estate of Henderson,(21) the Court of Appeals concluded that police officers owe no no duty of care to a passenger who is voluntarily in a fleeing vehicle because that person is not an innocent bystander and, thus, does not come within the rule announced in Fiser. The Court explained that unlike an innocent third party, a passenger has voluntarily placed himself in the hands of the driver. He can exercise control in encouraging the driver to stop and obey the police. In making their split second decision in regard to a chase, the police should only have to consider the safety of the innocent public, not what may be going on inside the car they are pursuing or who may be in the car.(22) However, given the conflict with the Cooper opinion, the court in Henderson granted ted rehearing and deferred to the Cooper decision pursuant to Supreme Court Administrative Order 1996-4. The court noted that but for Administrative Order 1996-4, it would have adhered to its earlier decision, describing the reasoning in Cooper as "flawed."

The next Part of this study report contains the results of a 50-state survey dealing with government employee immunity from suit, and the standard of care (e.g., ordinary negligence, gross negligence) government employees must exercise in order to enjoy immunity from suit.

IV. Other States' Government Tort Claims Statutes.

A. State Tort Immunity Statutes.

The following tables summarize the government employee and employer immunity law of the other 49 states and the District of Columbia.









§ 6-5-338


immunity for

discretionary acts;

negligence for other acts:

§ 11-47-190

liability for negligence of employees:

§ 11-47-190





§ 11-47-190



§ 09.65.070

absolute immunity for discretionary acts; negligence for other acts

absolute immunity for discretionary acts; negligence for other acts



§§ 12-820.02, 26-314

gross negligence

gross negligence, wilful misconduct, bad faith:

§ 26-314



§ 21-9-301

negligence, but only to insurance limits; otherwise, intentional or malicious conduct:

§ 19-10-305

no respondeat superior liability: § 21-9-301





(limits of mandatory liability insurance):

§ 21-9-301



§ 820

negligence, but no liability for emergency or high-speed pursuit: CAL. VEH. CODE §§ 17004, 17004.7

same as private person, but respondeat superior liability limited to same extent as employee liability:


§§ 815, 820.2



§ 24-10-106

wilful, intentional, malicious conduct:

§ 24-10-118(2)(a)

no liability unless employee acted wilfully, intentionally, or maliciously:

§ 24-10-106(1), (3)





§ 24-10-114,




§ 52-557n

no personal liability



DEL. CODE ANN. tit.10,

§ 4001

gross, willful, or wanton negligence, or bad faith conduct; no liability in emergency vehicle cases: § 4106

liable to same extent as employee



D.C. CODE § 1-1212

negligence; gross negligence for emergency vehicles:

§§ 1-1212, 4-176

liable to same extent as employee



§ 768.28

personal liability for conduct that is in bad faith, malicious, or in wanton & wilful disregard of safety:

§ 768.28(9)(a)






§ 768.28(5)


GA. CONST. art. I, § 2, para. XI


GA. CONST. art. I, § 2, para. XI

not liable for torts committed by police officers: GA. CODE ANN. § 36-33-3



§ 662-2


liable to same extent as employee


IDAHO CODE § 6-901


negligence: § 6-903

among joint tortfeasors, liability limited to pro rata share of total damages: § 6-903(a)



ch. 745, § 5/1

wilful and wanton conduct: § 10/2-202

liable to same extent as employee: § 10/2-109


IND. CONST. art. 4, § 24



§ 34-4-16.5-3

liable to same extent as employee



$5 million/


§ 34-4-16.5-4



§ 670.2


liable to same extent as employee: § 670.2



§ 75-6101


§ 75-6104

liable to same extent as employee: § 75-6103



§ 75-6105

no recovery of punitive damages:

§ 75-6105(c)



§ 44.072


liable to same extent as employee





§ 44.070(5)


LA. CONST. art. 2, § 10

negligence in discretionary functions

malicious, willful,

reckless misconduct in other contexts:


§ 9:2798.1

liable to same extent as employee


ME. REV. STAT. tit. 14,

§ 8104-A

absolute immunity for discretionary acts: ME. REV. STAT. tit. 14,

§ 8111

negligence in use of force: ME. REV. STAT. tit. 17-A, § 107

negligence: ME. REV. STAT. tit. 14, § 8104-A



ME. REV. STAT. tit.14,

§ 8105


MD. ANN. CODE, tit. 12,

§ 12-104

malice or gross negligence: MD. ANN. CODE tit. 5,

§ 5-399.2(b);

gross negligence in operation of emergency vehicle: § 19-103(b)

liable to same extent as employee: MD. ANN. CODE tit. 5, §§ 5-399.2(a), 5-403(b)





§ 5-403(a)


MASS. GEN. LAWS ch. 258, § 2

no personal liability:

§ 2

liable for negligence of employees: § 2


MINN. STAT. ANN. § 3.736

negligence: § 466.04, subd. 1a

negligence: §§ 3.736, 466.02





§ 3.726,

subd. 4



§ 11-46-5

no personal liability:

§ 11-46-7(2)

liable if police officer shows reckless disregard of safety of others: § 11-46-9(c)

$50,000, increased to $500,000 after 2001:

§ 11-46-15


MO. STAT. ANN. § 537.600

negligence: § 537.600

negligence: § 537.600, subd. 1(1)



$1 million/


§ 537.610


MONT. CONST. art. 2,

§ 18

negligence: MONT. CODE ANN. § 27-1-701

negligence: MONT. CODE ANN. § 2-9-102



§ 13-910

no personal liability for high-speed pursuits:

§ 13-911

negligence: § 13-908

$1 million/


$5 million/


§§ 13-922,




§ 41.031

negligence: § 41.032

liable to same extent as employee



§ 541-B:19

no personal liability if employer is liable under respondeat superior: § 541-B:9-a




$2 million/


§ 541-B:14


negligence, including operation of emergency vehicles: N.J. STAT. ANN. §§ 59:3-1, 39:4-91

liable to same extent as employee (§ 59:2-2), unless employee's conduct constitutes malice or willful misconduct

(§ 59:2-10)



§ 41-4-4


liable to same extent as employee


N.Y. LAWS ANN. § 8

gross negligence in transporting person to hospital: § 9.59(a)

negligence in other motor vehicle settings:

§ 9.59(b)

negligence of police officers: N.Y. LAWS ANN. § 50-j

negligence in operation of vehicles: N.Y. LAWS ANN. § 50-a



§ 160A-485

negligence: § 143-291

negligence, but only to extent of liability insurance purchased by city: § 160A-485

lesser of insurance policy limits or $150,000:

§ 143-291(a)


N.D. CODE § 32-12.1-03

gross negligence, reckless conduct, willful or wanton misconduct:Binstock v. Fort Yates Sch. Dist., 463 N.W.2d 837 (N.D. 1990)

negligence: N.D. CODE

§ 32-12.1-03




§ 32-12.1-03, subd. 2



§ 2744.02

acts committed with malicious purpose, in bad faith, or in wanton or reckless manner:

§ 2744.03(a)(6)(a)

negligence in operation of motor vehicle, unless police officer was responding to emergency call and operation did not constitute willful or wanton misconduct:

§ 2744.02(B)(1)(a)

noneconomic damages cap of $250,000:

§ 2744.05



OKLA. STAT. tit. 51,

§ 153

willful and wanton negligence: Holman v. Wheeler, 677 P.2d 645 (1983)

negligence: § 153



$1 million/


§ 154



§ 30.265

no personal liability:

§ 30.265(1)

negligence: § 30.265(1)





§ 30.270


42 PA. CONS. STAT. ANN. § 8522

willful misconduct generally: § 8550

absolute immunity from claims brought by persons fleeing police in high-speed pursuit:

§ 8542(a),(b)(1)

recklessness in other high-speed pursuit settings: 75 PA. CONS. STAT. ANN.

§ 3105

negligence, but absolute immunity from claims brought by persons fleeing police in high-speed pursuit: § 8542(a), (b)(1)

city liability limited to $500,000/


§ 8553(b)

state liability limited to $250,000/


$1 million/


§ 8528(b)



§ 9-31-1

recklessness in operation of emergency vehicle: § 31-12-9

negligence: § 9-31-1



§ 9-31-2



§ 15-78-20

no personal liability, unless conduct constituted intent to harm or actual malice: § 15-78-70(b)

negligence: § 15-78-40





§ 15-78-120



no personal liability unless government employer purchases liability insurance:

§ 21-32A-2


liability to insurance policy limits:

§ 21-32A-1



§ 29-20-202, -205



lesser of liability insurance limits, or





§ 29-20-403



§ 101.201

no personal liability:

§ 101.026


§ 101.0215





§ 101.023(c)



§ 63-30-4

no personal liability except for fraud or malice:

§ 63-30-4


§ 63-30-10





§ 63-30-34


VT. STAT. ANN. tit. 29, § 1403 (municipalities); tit. 12, § 5601 (state)

gross negligence or willful misconduct:

tit. 12, § 5602


state, $250,00/


$1 million/


tit. 12, § 5601(b)


not in excess of liability insurance limits:

tit. 29, § 1404


VA. CODE ANN. § 8.01-195.3 (waived as to state only)


same as liability of employee


§ 8.01-195.3



§ 4.96.010


§ 4.96.041




§ 29-12A-4



§ 29-12A-4(c)(2)

noneconomic damages capped at $500,000:

§ 29-12A-7


Holytz v. Milwaukee,

17 Wis. 2d 26 (1961)





§ 893.80(3)


WYO. STAT. § 1-39-102


State v. Dieringer,

708 P.2d 1 (1985)


§ 1-39-105, -112





§ 1-39-118

As the foregoing tables show, with regard to the individual liability of police officers, states fall into three broad categories. The first group holds police officers personally liable for their negligent acts, but extends immunity for acts that fall within certain enumerated discretionary functions. States in this category are Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. A second group of states holds police officers personally liable only if their conduct was grossly negligent, malicious, fraudulent, or wanton and wilful. States in this group are Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois,(23) Louisiana, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma,

Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, and Vermont.(24) A third group of states relieves police officers from all all personal liability, and instead holds the government employer liable under respondeat superior. States in this group are Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Utah. Interestingly, 35 states impose damage caps on the recovery of either compensatory damages or damages for noneconomic injuries in the government tort liability context. All states with either type of damage cap also prohibit an award of punitive damages.

B. Police Officer Liability for High-Speed Pursuits.

Turning to the question of liability for high-speed pursuits, three states have addressed this issue through specific legislation.

1. Nebraska's Legislative Response.

Nebraska relieves a police officer from personal liability for claims arising out of high-speed pursuits brought by innocent third parties, but the government employer remains liable for the payment of damages.(25) Section 13-911, Nebraska Revised Statutes, provides:

In case of death, injury, or property damage to any innocent third party proximately caused by the action of a law enforcement officer employed by a political subdivision during vehicular pursuit, damages shall be paid to such third party by the political subdivision employing the officer. . . .

For purposes of this section, vehicular pursuit shall mean an active attempt by a law enforcement officer operating a motor vehicle to apprehend one or more occupants of another motor vehicle, when the driver of the fleeing vehicle is or should be aware of such attempt and is resisting apprehension by maintaining or increasing his or her speed, ignoring the officer, or attempting to elude the officer while driving at speeds in excess of those reasonable and proper under the conditions.

Nebraska also requires law enforcement agencies within the state to adopt a motor vehicle pursuit policy. Section 29-211, Nebraska Revised Statutes, provides:

Each law enforcement agency within the State of Nebraska shall adopt and implement a written policy regarding the pursuit of motor vehicles. Such policy shall contain at least the following elements:

(1) Standards which describe when a pursuit may be initiated, taking into consideration the nature and severity of the offense involved;

(2) Standards which describe when a pursuit is to be discontinued, giving special attention to (a) the degree of danger presented to the general public and the pursuing officer and (b) the probability of later apprehension of the subject based upon his or her identification;

(3) Procedures governing the operation of pursuits including, but not limited to, the number and types of vehicles which may be used, the method of operation of such vehicles, and the exercise of supervision during pursuits;

(4) Procedures governing pursuits which include other law enforcement agencies or which extend into the jurisdiction of other law enforcement agencies; and

(5) A system of continued planning and training of personnel regarding the proper handling of pursuits.

2. Pennsylvania's Legislative Response.

Pennsylvania extends absolute immunity to both a police officer and his or her employer for claims brought by a person fleeing the police in high-speed pursuit.(26) Section 8542, title 42, Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes tes Annotated, provides:

(b) Acts which may impose liability.--The following acts by a local agency or any of its employees may result in the imposition of liability on a local agency:

(1) Vehicle liability.--The operation of any motor vehicle in the possession or control of the local agency, provided that the local agency shall not be liable to any plaintiff that claims liability under this subsection if the plaintiff was, during the course of the alleged negligence, in flight or fleeing apprehension or resisting arrest by a police officer or knowingly aided a group, one or more of whose members were in flight or fleeing apprehension or resisting arrest by a police officer. . . .

* * * *

(d) Evidence.--Whenever any plaintiff claims liability under subsection (b)(1), evidence is admissible to demonstrate that the plaintiff, at any time during the course of the alleged negligence, was engaged or participating in willful misconduct, including, but not limited to, the illegal possession of controlled substances, firearms or ammunition.

As to other persons injured in such a pursuit, the standard is one of recklessness.(27)

The Michigan Court of Appeals' decision in Jackson v. Oliver, supra, essentially reaches the same result as section 8542(b)(1) by holding that a police officer owes no duty of care to a fleeing suspect.

3. California's Legislative Response.

California has taken the boldest step. California provides that a police officer is not liable for personal injuries or death to any person when in the immediate pursuit of an actual or suspected law violator.(28) Section 17004 of the California Vehicle Code provides:

A public employee is not liable for civil damages on account of personal injury to or death of any person or damage to property resulting from the operation, in the line of duty, of an authorized emergency vehicle while responding to an emergency call or when in the immediate pursuit of an actual or suspected violator of the law, or when responding to but not upon returning from a fire alarm or other emergency call.

California extends this immunity to public agencies employing police officers in cases in which the pursued vehicle causes injury to a third person if the public employer adopts a written policy on the safe conduct of vehicular pursuits. Section 17004.7(b)-(c) of the California Vehicle Code provides:

(b) A public agency employing peace officers which adopts a written policy on vehicular pursuits complying with subdivision (c) is immune from liability for civil damages for personal injury to or death of any person or damage to property resulting from the collision of a vehicle being operated by an actual or suspected violator of the law who is being, has been, or believes he or she is being or has been, pursued by a peace officer employed by the public entity in a motor vehicle.

(c) If the public entity has adopted a policy for the safe conduct of vehicular pursuits by peace officers, it shall meet all of the following minimum standards:

(1) It provides that, if available, there be supervisory control of the pursuit.

(2) It provides procedures for designating the primary pursuit vehicle and for determining the total number of vehicles to be permitted to participate at one time in the pursuit.

(3) It provides procedures for coordinating operations with other jurisdictions.

(4) It provides guidelines for determining when the interests of public safety and effective law enforcement justify a vehicular pursuit and when a vehicular pursuit should not be initiated or should be terminated.(29)

The California statute further provides that "[a] determination of whether a policy adopted pursuant to subdivision (c) complies with that subdivision is a question of law for the court."(30)

V. Suggested Reforms.

There are any number of legislative responses to the problem of police-officer liability for high-speed pursuits, including, of course, maintaining the status quo. An alternative approach predicated on legislative reform would be to add special provisions to the GTLA for high-speed pursuits.

The following draft language prepared by Commissioner George Ward would amend the GTLA by adding a new subsection to M.C.L. § 691.1407 that would provide:

(4)(i) A government agency, its law enforcement officers, employees, agents, or volunteers shall be immune from civil liability to an innocent third party for personal injury or property damage caused by the vehicle pursued in an official vehicular pursuit if the requirements of subsection (ii) have been met. Notwithstanding such immunity, an innocent third party, or his or her estate, shall receive compensation for personal injury or property damage caused by the pursued vehicle, according to the following schedule:

(a) Death, hemiplegia, paraplegia, or quadriplegia resulting in a total permanent functional loss, $350,000.

(b) Permanent loss of vision of both eyes, $325,000.

(c) Injury to the brain which permanently impairs cognitive functions, rendering the person incapable of making independent, responsible life decisions and permanently incapable of independently performing the activities of normal daily living, $300,000.

(d) Loss of limb or functional use of a limb, $200,000.

(e) Permanent loss of vision in one eye, $150,000.

(f) Permanent loss of use of important body functions, $75,000.

(g) Property damage, in amount equal to the lesser of (i) the cost of repair of such property or (ii) the fair market value of such property immediately preceding the accident.

The schedule of compensation shall in no way limit the right to receipt of benefits payable to an injured person for his or her care, recovery, and rehabilitation under the provisions of Chapter 31, Motor Vehicle Personal and Property Protection.

Notwithstanding the immunity from tort liability provided under this subsection, a law enforcement officer, employee, agent, or volunteer remains subject to discipline by his or her employer or agency for any failure to observe the employer's pursuit policy.

(ii) Tort liability shall be displaced by the compensation schedule as provided above only in cases where the government agency has adopted a Safe Vehicular Pursuit Policy and the pursuit in question was conducted consistently with the adopted policy. A Safe Vehicular Pursuit Policy shall, at a minimum, include all of the following:

(a) If available, there shall be supervisory control of the pursuit.

(b) Procedures for designating the primary pursuit vehicle and for determining the total number of vehicles to be permitted to participate at one time in the pursuit shall be stated.

(c) Procedures for coordinating operations with other jurisdictions shall be stated.

(d) Guidelines for determining when the interests of public safety and effective law enforcement justify a vehicular pursuit and when a vehicular pursuit should not be initiated or should be terminated shall be stated.

A determination of whether the policy of a governmental agency complies with subsection (ii) or whether a particular vehicular pursuit was conducted consistently with an adopted policy are questions of law for the court to decide.

A similar proposal has been made by the MMRMA in its submission to the Commission. See Appendix A.

The Commission expressed concerns with this proposal, including the following:

  1. Who is an "innocent" person for purposes of this proposal? Does "innocent" mean "non-negligent;" does it mean less than 50 percent comparatively negligent; or does it have some other meaning?
  2. In the event of a high-speed pursuit initiated in one jurisdiction and continuing through and assisted by police officers from one or more additional jurisdictions, how is liability to be apportioned? Should a Commission be created to award compensation to victims and to apportion damages among municipalities?
  3. Although medical and health benefits available under the no-fault law would be unaffected by this proposal, do the damage caps adequately compensate for actual economic losses suffered by a victim and his or her family? Should the damage caps be limited to non-economic injuries, i.e., damages for pain and suffering?
  4. Is it advisable to state actual dollar amounts for recoveries? If actual dollar amounts are stated, should they be indexed in order to account for the impact of inflation?
  5. Does this proposal amount to an unfunded mandate from the Legislature to municipalities?

The Commission will continue to study this issue during 1997.

(1) This study report was prepared by Professor Kevin Kennedy. Professor Kennedy wishes to acknowledge the valuable research assistance provided by Russell Meyers, Class of '98, Detroit College of Law at Michigan State University.

(2) Richard G. Zevitz, Police Civil Liability and the Law of High Speed Pursuit, 70 MARQUETTE L. REV. 237, 239 n.4 (1987). For a discussion of the literature on the subject, see Geoffrey P. Alpert & Roger G. Dunham, Policing Hot Pursuits: The Discovery of Aleatory Elements, 80 J. CRIM. L. & CRIMINOLOGY 521 (1989). See also Mitchell J. Edlund, In the Heat of the Chase: Determining Substantive Due Process Violations Within the Framework of Police Pursuits When an Innocent Bystander Is Injured, 30 VALPO. U. L. REV. 161 (1995).

(3) See, e.g., WIS. STAT. § 346.03(6).

(4) See Phillip M. Pickus, Police Officer Pursuing Suspect Owes Duty of Care e to Third Parties Injured by the Fleeing Suspect, 21 BALT. L. REV. 363, 370 n.43 (1992).

(5) M.C.L. §691.1407, M.S.A. §3.996(107).

(6) The Michigan Court of Appeals has issued a number of opinions dealing with gross negligence under the GTLA outside the context of police officer liability. See, e.g., Green v. Benton Harbor School Dist., No. 141667 (Mich. Ct. App. Mar. 31, 1993)(defendants' conduct in approaching student who jumped school yard fence and was raped on private property did not constitute gross negligence as a matter of law); Jamieson v. Luce-Mackinac-Alger-Schoolcraft Dist. Health Dep't, 198 Mich. App. 103, 497 N.W.2d 551 (1993)(the mens rea for wanton and wilful misconduct is greater than the reckless substantial lack of concern for gross negligence); Reese v. Wayne County, 193 Mich. App. 215, 483 N.W.2d 671 (1992)(where county had no duty to remove natural accumulation of snow, county employees likewise had no such duty); Tallman v. Markstrom, 180 Mich. App. 141, 446 N.W.2d 618 (1989)(allegation that teacher was grossly negligent in permitting student to use a table saw without safety devices sufficient to withstand motion for summary disposition).

(7) The standard of liability for units of government in cases involving automobiles remains ordinary negligence. See Friser v. City of Ann Arbor, 417 Mich. 461, 339 N.W.2d 413 (1983).

(8) Zavala v. Zinser, 420 Mich. 567, 659-60, 363 N.W.2d 641 (1984).

(9) See, e.g., Friser v. City of Ann Arbor, 417 Mich. 461, 339 N.W.2d 413 3 (1983); Frohman v. City of Detroit, 181 Mich. App. 400, 450 N.W.2d 59 (1989). Before the 1986 amendments, a police officer could be personally liable for ordinary negligence in driving cases. In most cases it will be difficult for plaintiffs to meet the statutory gross negligence standard in order to establish individual liability, although the police officer's employer may nevertheless be held liable for ordinary negligence under the motor vehicle exception to governmental immunity, M.C.L. § 691.1405, M.S.A. § 3.996(105).

(10) 181 Mich. App. 400, 450 N.W.2d 59 (1989).

(11) Frohman, 181 Mich. App. at 414-15, 450 N.W.2d 59.

(12) See Brown v. Shavers, 210 Mich. App. 272, 532 N.W.2d 856 (1995), , where the court rejected the defendant-officer's argument that since it was the suspect who shot the bystander, and not the officer, that the officer could not be "the" proximate cause of the victim's death. See also Michelle L. Hirschauer, Casenote: Dedes v. Asch, 72 U. DET. MERCY L. REV. 685 (1995).

As the 50-state survey below shows, a few states have addressed the joint tortfeasor problem in the immunity context by making the government defendant liable only for its pro rata share of damages. See, e.g., IDAHO CODE § 6-903(a). In 1995, the Michigan Legislature abolished joint and several liability in most tort cases, and substituted a several liability legal regime. See M.C.L. § 600.6304(4).

(13) 204 Mich. App. 122, 514 N.W.2d 195 (1994).

(14) 206 Mich. App. 459, 522 N.W.2d 681 (1994).

(15) The public duty doctrine provides that law enforcement personnel owe a duty to the general public to provide protection, and not to any specific individual, unless a special relationship exists between the official and the individual such that the performance by the official would affect the individual in a manner different in kind from the way performance would affect the public. Harrison v. Director, Dep't of Corrections, 194 Mich. App. 446, 456-57, 487 N.W.2d 799 (1992). For a discussion of the public duty doctrine, see Mark L. Van Valkenburgh, Note, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 258, § 10: Slouching Toward Sovereign Immunity, 29 NEW ENGLAND L. REV. 1079 (1995); Karen Mahon Tullier, Note, Governmental Liability for Negligent Failure to Detain Drunk Drivers, 77 CORNELL L. REV. 873 (1992).

(16) White, 206 Mich. App. at 465.

(17) 210 Mich. App. 272, 532 N.W.2d 856 (1995). The court in Brown also concluded that the plaintiffs had not made out a case for an exception to the public duty doctrine. 210 Mich. App. at 275, 532 N.W.2d 856.

(18) Brown, 210 Mich. App. at 277, 532 N.W.2d 856.

(19) 218 Mich. App. 649 (1996).

(20) Id., 218 Mich. App. at 657.

(21) 1996 WL 518017 (Mich. Ct. App. 1996), rehearing granted and overruled, 1996 WL 682922 (1996). Supreme Court Administrative Order 1996-4 provides that a prior Court of Appeals' decision is controlling authority unless reversed by the Supreme Court or a special panel of the Court of Appeals.

(22) Id. at 3, rehearing granted and overruled, 1996 WL 682922 (1996).

(23) ILL. ANN. STAT. § 10/1-210 defines "willful and wanton conduct" as follows:

"Willful and wanton conduct" as used in this [Governmental Employees Tort] Act means a course of action which shows an actual or deliberate intention to cause harm or which, if not intentional, shows an utter indifference to or conscious disregard for the safety of others or their property.

(24) The District of Columbia defines "gross negligence" as "wilful intent to injure" or "a reckless or wanton disregard of the rights of another . . . ." D.C. CODE § 4-162.

(25) NEB. REV. STAT. § 13-911. Nebraska also requires each law enforcement agency within the state to adopt a five-point policy regarding high-speed pursuits. NEB. REV. STAT. § 29-211.

(26) 42 PA. CONS. STAT. ANN. § 8542(a); 75 PA. CONS. STAT. ANN. § 8545; Hawks v. Livermore, 629 A.2d 270 (Pa. 1993); Dennis v. City of Philadelphia, 620 A.2d 625 (Pa. 1993).

(27) Roadman v. Bellone, 379 Pa. 483, 108 A.2d 754 (1954).

(28) CAL. VEH. CODE § 17004.

(29) CAL. VEH. CODE § 17004.7(c)(1)-(4).

(30) Id., § 17004.7(d).

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