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MUNICIPAL LAW: Supreme Court holds that decision of officer to engage in pursuit of a fleeing vehicle is not ministerial and falls within the governmental immunity doctrine

The Connecticut Supreme Court upheld the ruling of the lower court in granting defendants Motion for Summary Judgment on the basis that governmental immunity applied to officer’s decision of whether to initiate a high speed police pursuit.  This cause of action was brought by the estate of a decedent passenger in a motor vehicle that flipped over during a high-speed police pursuit.  The estate sued the city police department, the two officers in the vehicle that gave pursuit, and the shift officer on duty.  The defendants moved for Summary Judgment on the grounds that the plaintiff’s claims were barred by governmental immunity and no exception applied.  The Court addressed the narrowly tailored issue of whether governmental immunity applies to an officer’s decision to engage in a pursuit.  The Court found that § 14-283, together with the Uniform Statewide Pursuit Policy and the town’s pursuit policy, imposes a discretionary rather than a ministerial duty upon a police officer when deciding whether to pursue a fleeing motorist.  The Court reasoned the language “to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons and property” along with the list of considerations an officer should consider in making the decision to give pursuit highlight the discretionary nature of the duty.  The plaintiff attempted to argue that the victim would fall under the identifiable victim-imminent harm exception to governmental immunity.  For the identifiable victim-imminent harm exception to apply three requirements must be met (1) an imminent harm; (2) an identifiable victim, and (3) a public official to whom it is apparent that his or her conduct is likely to subject that victim to the harm.  The Court found that the decedent was not an identifiable victim or identifiable individual.  The Court reasoned that if any person in a motor vehicle pursued by the police qualified as an identifiable victim “the exception would swallow the rule.”  Angela Borelli, Adminstratrix of the Estate of Brandon Giordano v. Anthony Renaldi  (June 24, 2020).