City of Jackson v. LewisAnnotate this Case
After observing LaMarcus Butler turn off the lights of his vehicle and make a u-turn in an apparent effort to avoid a police roadblock, police pursued Butler, at varying speeds, until a superior officer instructed him by radio to desist. The fleeing Butler collided with a vehicle occupied by Margaret Stephens, Lee B. Lewis, and Oda Mae Green. Stephens died as a result of the crash, and Lewis and Green suffered severe injuries. Plaintiffs Lewis and Green, individually, and Sonya Stephens, on behalf of Margaret Stephens’s wrongful-death beneficiaries, filed suit against the City of Jackson, Mississippi. Following a bench trial in 2008, the trial court assessed 100% of the fault to the City and entered judgment in favor of the Plaintiffs. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the circuit court’s holding, finding that police had not acted in “reckless disregard for the safety and well-being of persons not engaged in criminal conduct,” and therefore, governmental immunity shielded the City from liability. Plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court, asserting that the Court of Appeals: (1) misinterpreted the factors for determining reckless disregard by law enforcement personnel; (2) improperly weighed the evidence on appeal, made credibility determinations, and improperly rejected evidence that supported the findings of the trial court; and (3) improperly substituted its judgment for the trial court’s credibility determination regarding expert testimony. Upon review, the Supreme Court found dispositive the question of whether the Court of Appeals misinterpreted and misapplied case law for determining reckless disregard by law enforcement officers. Finding that the Court of Appeals erred, the Supreme Court reversed its judgment, and reinstated and affirmed the circuit court's judgment.