Supreme Court Finds Distinction in Applicability of Law Enforcement’s Governmental Immunity | Marshall Dennehey

Adesokan v. Town of Bloomfield, 347 Conn. 416, 297 A.3d 983 (2023)

This is a very interesting appeal involving whether a police officer holds a special defense of governmental immunity in the appellant’s underlying personal injury lawsuit. In the primary lawsuit, the plaintiff sought recovery for personal injuries she and her two young children sustained when a police officer collided with her vehicle while in pursuit of a potential abductor.

The trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiff appealed the decision. The Supreme Court of Connecticut reversed the trial court’s granting of summary judgment and remanded the case for trial. In reaching its decision, the court looked at two applicable yet somewhat conflicting statutes: §§ 14-283 and 52-557n(a)(2)(B). Section 52-557n(a)(2)(B) is the governmental immunity statute which provides, in relevant part:

[e]xcept as otherwise provided by law, a political subdivision of the state shall not be liable for damages to person or property caused by … (B) negligent acts or omissions which require the exercise of judgment or discretion as an official function of the authority expressly or impliedly granted by law.

The court noted that § 14-283 provides that:

An operator of any emergency vehicle may…proceed past any red light, stop signal or stop sign, but only after slowing down or stopping to the extent necessary for the safe operation of such vehicle…exceed the posted speed limits or other speed limits imposed by or pursuant to section 14-218a, 14-219, or 140-307a as long as such operator does not endanger life…

The Supreme Court ultimately decided these two statutes were ambiguous and concluded, by “reading the two statutes together in light of their legislative purposes, we conclude that ‘the duty to drive with due regard’ mandated by § 14-283 (d) functions as an exception ‘provided by law’ under the savings clause applicable to discretionary act immunity in § 52-557n (a)(2)(B).” The court held that the governmental immunity under § 52-557n(a)(2)(B) does not apply to the manner in which an emergency vehicle is operated and that the codified, common law duty to drive with due regard pursuant to § 14-283 (d) should have been applied.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *