NYPD’s Hot Pursuit Immunity Has Limitations (NY)
In Fuchs v. City of New York (2020 NY Slip Op 04382), the NYPD was involved in a high-speed pursuit of a suspect. The plaintiff was driving down a one-way street when the suspect turned the wrong way and collided with plaintiff’s vehicle. Plaintiff sued the police department for her injuries and the City of New York claimed a qualified exemption under VTL § 1104 which provides an exemption for drivers of authorized emergency vehicles from certain traffic laws when involved in an emergency situation. However, under VTL §1104(e), there is a provision that waves that exemption if the emergency services driver operates his vehicle in a reckless disregard for the safety of others. Here, the recklessness standard requires a showing that the officer intentionally performed an act disregarding a known or obvious risk that would be highly probable to harm others, and the officer did so with disregard for the outcome.
The Second Department found that the police officer’s actions did not rise to that reckless standard because he was involved in a pursuit of the suspect’s vehicle which was traveling beyond the speed limit and disobeying traffic laws. Moreover, the accident was caused primarily by the “independent recklessness of the driver”. All insurers should know that the reckless standard for emergency vehicles requires a showing that the driver is involved in an emergency situation. It also requires that the act itself was not performed with an intentional disregard for a known or obvious risk of harm to others. These requirements should be clearly stated in policy agreements with all clients who are involved in providing emergency services.
Thanks to Raymond Gonzalez for his post. Please contact Vincent Terrasi with any questions or comments.