Court grants immunity to City and officer involved in negligent police chase
Brian Ibrahim was seriously hurt when his car was struck by a vehicle operated by Ivan Lazar. Lazar was fleeing a City of Detroit police officer at high speed. The chase began when Lazar failed to make a complete stop at a stop sign. Ibrahim's attorneys argued that police standards do not support high-speed chases where the perpetrator has committed a simple traffic violation: the risks to the public from a high speed chase are deemed by authorities to out-weigh the value of effecting a police stop of the offending driver. Nevertheless, the Court granted the City's and the officer's motion for summary disposition.Even though municipalities are not immune from liability for the negligent operation of a motor vehicle, the so-called "Engler Majority" (Supreme Court Justices with close ties to the insurance industry) overturned prior law and held that conducting a police chase is not "operating a motor vehicle." Therefore, police were granted immunity from negligently conducted chases, regardless of the havoc they may cause. Since the police vehicle did not strike Ibrahim's vehicle, Ibrahim was not allowed to claim negligence by the officer.
The Court also upheld the dismissal of the gross negligence claim against the pursuing officer: it deemed the sole cause of the collision to be the reckless driving of Lazar, therefore precluding an award against the overly-aggressive officer.