SALT LAKE CITY (Legal Newsline) -A handcuffed man who fell while waiting to be put in a Utah Highway Patrol cruiser can't sue the agency for negligence, the Utah Supreme Court said.
Thomas Peck filed a lawsuit claiming that the state trooper who arrested him was negligent for allowing him to fall on his face during his 2002 arrest for drunken driving at a gas station parking lot.
The high court ruled unanimously last week that state law affords the Highway Patrol and its officers immunity from lawsuits over injuries that arise in any form of "legal confinement," including in a prison or a jail.
Peck was incarcerated when he fell, even though he wasn't in jail or prison, the justices said.
Their decision overturns a ruling by Third District Judge Stephen Henriod who found that the Highway Patrol's immunity from civil actions applies only to injuries that occur in facilities owned and controlled by a state or local government.
The state appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.
The justices said that Peck's injuries were caused while he was waiting to be but in a cruiser to be transported to jail. They said there is a nexus between his injury and his incarceration in either the county jail or the cruiser.
That link, they said, bars Peck from suing the state or its agents.
"We hold that Peck's claim is barred because there is a causal connection between his injury and his incarceration in a place of legal confinement such that his injury arose out of his Incarceration," Justice Jill Parrish wrote for the court.
From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.