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Legal Memorandum: Political Division's Liability for Damages

Issue: If an Iowan police officer chases a suspect into Nebraska, where the fleeing suspect causes injury, is the Iowan officer’s employer subject to strict liability under Neb. Stat. Sec. 13-911?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Strict liability; Political division; Police officer
Jurisdiction: Federal, Iowa, Nebraska
Cited Cases: 263 Neb. 700; 494 N.W.2d 130; 641 N.W.2d 644
Cited Statutes: Neb. Stat. Sec. 13-911; Neb. Stat. § 13-903(1);
Date: 05/01/2004

Under Neb. Stat. Sec. 13-911, a political subdivision is strictly liable for damages sustained by an innocent third party proximately caused by the action of a law enforcement officer employed by the political subdivision during vehicular pursuit.  Neb. Stat. Sec. 13-911(1) (1996).  The statute creates strict liability on the part of the political subdivision when: (1) a claimant suffers death, injury or property damage; (2) such death, injury or property damage is proximately caused by the actions of a pursuing law enforcement officer employed by the political subdivision; and (3) the claimant is an innocent third party.  Stewart v. City of Omaha, 242 Neb. 240, 494 N.W.2d 130 (1993), overruled on other grounds, Hennery v. City of Nebraska, 263 Neb. 700, 641 N.W.2d 644 (2002).

There have been no decisions published concerning whether Sec. 13-911 applies when a law enforcement officer travels from another state into Nebraska and is then involved in a collision resulting in injury.  Accordingly, the applicability of the statute has yet to be tested or refined in this regard.  Looking solely at the statute, “political subdivision” is defined to include “villages, cities of all classes, counties, school districts, public power districts, and all other units of local government, including entities created pursuant to the Interlocal Cooperation Act or Joint Public Agency Act.”  Neb. Stat. § 13-903(1) (1996).  Accordingly, the statutory definition does not exclude cities from other states as falling within the definition of “political subdivision.”  […]

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