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PA Supreme Court Affirms Police Do Not Owe Duty to Unknown Passengers in Fleeing Vehicles

In a case handled by Marshall Dennehey's appellate attorneys, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court voted 6 -0 to affirm a judgment as a matter of law for our clients, a Pennsylvania police department and its officers, and held that police owe neither a statutory nor a common law duty to unknown passengers in fleeing vehicles.   In December of 2006, Officer Edward Howley attempted to pull over a high-performance Ford Mustang operated by an individual who had spent the better part of the day and evening drinking with family and friends.  The plaintiff’s decedent, who had been drinking with the operator and another passenger, sought and obtained a ride from the intoxicated driver.  The three men were on their way home when Officer Howley activated his lights and sirens to pull them over.  The entire incident, from thirty seconds before the lights and siren are activated, until several hours after the ensuing crash, was captured on Officer Howley’s in-car video camera. That video established that the get-away car was only within the officer’s view for sixteen seconds, and that a mere seventy-four seconds passed from activation of lights and siren, to the crash that killed the plaintiff's decedent.   The Supreme Court's ruling confirms that the police did nothing wrong in attempting to pull over the speeding Mustang.  The Pennsylvania Fraternal Order of Police, The Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Municipal League, and the Pennsylvania Association of Boroughs joined together as amici curiae to support the clients' position in the Supreme Court.  Sellers v. Township of Abington et al., 2014 Pa. Lexis. 3463 (December 29, 2014).

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