The Connecticut Supreme Court issued its decision yesterday in Borelli v. Renaldi (Seymour Police Department). The defense of this case was managed by Attorney Tom Gerarde and Howd & Ludorf, L.L.C., a law firm that is part of the Themis Advocates Group. Attorney Gerarde argued to the Connecticut Supreme Court last year on behalf of the defendant, Officer Renaldi.
The lawsuit stemmed from a police pursuit that ended in fatal injuries to a passenger in the pursued vehicle. The driver fleeing from the police lost control of his vehicle during the pursuit and crashed, killing one of the passengers. The surviving family members of the deceased tried to sue for damages and argued that the high-speed police pursuit was unnecessarily dangerous given that the suspect had been pulled over for vehicle lighting violations.
The Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment to Officer Renaldi based on governmental immunity in a 6-1 decision, with the majority opinion written by Justice Khan, and dismissed the case. There were two concurring opinions, from Chief Justice Robinson and Justice D’Auria, and a 69-page dissenting opinion from Justice Ecker.
Attorney Gerarde was quoted as saying that the Connecticut Supreme Court’s “decision affirming that the shield of governmental immunity applied in this case is a big win for all municipal police departments.” Police officers must decide to pursue a suspect’s vehicle only after that suspect first decided to violate mandatory laws and flee the scene. Attorney Gerarde further explained that the “decision holds that the duty owed during emergency operation is discretionary and that public policy favors the non-applicability of the exception to a passenger in the pursued vehicle.”
In other words, police officers in Connecticut and perhaps elsewhere have retained the ability to pursue a fleeing suspect based on their in-the-moment discretion without the fear of being held financially liable for injuries that could have been avoided had the suspect decided not to flee in the first place. The case result effectively keeps liability off pursuing officers who are upholding a civic duty and instead assigns it to people who are knowingly violating the law.
From all of us at Themis Advocates Group, we want to send a heartfelt congratulations to Attorney Tom Gerarde and the members of the Howd & Ludorf, L.L.C. team who contributed to this monumental win. Taking a case to a state’s Supreme Court is never easy, especially when defending a controversial topic like a police-related fatality. Your focus and dedication to both the client’s best interests and the pursuit of justice in the face of adversity are highly commendable.
Learn more about Howd & Ludorf, L.L.C. by clicking here.