Alabama Supreme Court rules officers immune to charges over fatal chase

By Glenn Minnis | Apr 7, 2017

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (Legal Newsline) - The Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that a woman injured in a police chase where another person was killed cannot sue the officers involved in the incident or the city that employs them.

The panel of nine justices unanimously rejected an appeal filed by Bria Mines, which named Homewood officers J.C. Clifton and Jason Davis as defendants.

According to the court's opinion, in December 2013, the officers were pursuing a vehicle driven by Bristinia Fuller in which Mines was a passenger. Officers were responding to a call of a shoplifting taking place at a Babies “R” US store at the Wildwood Shopping Center when they commenced chase of the vehicle, which sped down the road, running several red lights as it fled from the scene and turned into heavy traffic on nearby Lake Shore Drive.

Fuller was killed in the chase when her vehicle struck a light pole as the two officers, driving separate patrol vehicles, continued to trail her speeding vehicle. 

Mines was seriously injured in the crash, and later filed suit against the officers alleging recklessness on their part in conducting a high-speed chase in such a congested area. Over time, the officers appealed to the state Supreme Court after a lower court judge refused to dismiss the claims against them and the city.

In rendering their verdict, justices ruled evidence showed the officers did not cause Mines' injuries and therefore can’t be considered liable for them. They cited video of the incident retrieved from a dashboard camera, which showed officers were still a fair distance away from Fuller at the time she crashed her vehicle, resulting in Mines’ serious injuries.

"The video recording demonstrates that the officers were exercising discretion and judgment during the pursuit of Fuller's vehicle," the court said, adding that the officers and the city should be protected by laws that grant immunity from such lawsuit filings. 

The court’s opinion was written by Acting Chief Justice Lyn Stewart, who added “Officer Clifton and Officer Davis have established that they are entitled to immunity as to Mines's claims against them in both their official and individual capacities. Moreover, because Officer Clifton and Officer Davis are entitled to immunity, Homewood is also entitled to immunity.”

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