Police Immunity from Personal Injury

Wilson v. Podeia, App. Div. – submitted by vehicle accident lawyer, Jeffrey Hark

This case addresses a very important issue regarding police injuring plaintiffs while they are in the course of responding, in good faith, to emergencies.  There is a specific code section, N.J.S.A. 59:3-3 which give the officers immunity, so long as they are:

  1. in the course of their employment,
  2. are proceeding in an emergency,
  3. have their lights and sirens on while in a marked police vehicle.

In this case the plaintiff made two claims, one against the police and one against New Jersey Transit after plaintiff alighted from a New Jersey Transit bus at the spot he requested, crossed in front of the bus rather than proceeding to the cross-walk, and was struck by a police car responding to a medical emergency.

Plaintiff appealed the trial court’s dismissal of the case in favor of the police officer and department and NJT and its driver when it Ruled at a Summary Judgment motion, that (a) the officer was immune from the claim because he was operating his vehicle in good faith, in the course of his employment, and to an emergency.

The panel affirmed, finding that the trial court properly found that the officer was entitled to the immunity protections of the good faith doctrine provided in N.J.S.A. 59:3-3 because at the time of the accident he was responding to an emergency call for medical assistance in his marked patrol car with the overhead lights and sirens activated.

The Appellate Court also affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff’s claim against the NJT bus operator even though the court agreed to accept plaintiff’s position that the NJT driver allowed him to alight the bus in an area that was not designated for the discharge of passengers.  The trial court properly found that plaintiff’s claims against NJT and its driver were barred by N.J.S.A. 59:4-2 since plaintiff cannot impute liability to NJT and the driver for injuries he sustained as a proximate cause of his voluntary decision to cross the street at the location he selected, after he had alighted the bus.

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Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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