If you are driving through an intersection on a green light and are suddenly T-boned by a car speeding through a red light on the wrong side of the road, you would probably expect the insurance of the driver of the other vehicle to pay for damages and injuries.
But, what if the car that hit you was a Greensboro police car? In that case you might be out of luck and your recourse would be to sue Greensboro. But Greensboro has sovereign immunity, which in laymen’s terms means you can’t sue the city unless the city agrees to let you and the city doesn’t have to pay for damages or injuries.
Just such a lawsuit against the City of Greensboro, and the officer involved, was filed on behalf of Rafael Flores by Michele Cybulski and Seth Cohen of the Deuterman Law Group. Flores was a passenger in a pick-up truck traveling north on South Aycock Street that was struck by a Greensboro police car driven by Officer Jaala Janene Baker, who was traveling west on West Gate City Boulevard.
Cybulski said, “The officer was driving 80 mph the wrong way and ran a red light, hitting our client, but the city doesn’t want to pay for his injuries. That’s not right. He hurt his neck, shoulder and back and was in a lot of pain. He was lucky he wasn’t killed.”
Baker was reportedly involved in a high speed chase but, according to the lawsuit, North Carolina law “provides that emergency vehicles are exempt from having to comply with speed limitations; but this exemption does not protect the driver of that emergency vehicle from consequences of gross negligence, i.e. reckless disregard of the safety of others.”
The lawsuit states that the evidence of gross negligence includes that Baker was driving on the wrong side of the road, was driving 80 mph in a 35 mph zone, drove through a red light without slowing to make sure the intersection was clear, lost control of her vehicle and failed to keep and maintain a speed that was reasonably prudent for the conditions that then existed in a highly populated and heavily congested commercial area.
Along with the City of Greensboro, Baker is being sued both in her official capacity as a police officer and individually.
Cohen said, “The city will probably do what it usually does, hide behind sovereign immunity. This outdated doctrine says the city can injure its citizens and choose not to pay for the damage it causes. How is that fair?”