Mississippi Court Orders New Damages Determination in Accident

August 23, 2012

The Mississippi Supreme Court has let stand a ruling that a Hinds County judge erred in determining how the much the city of Jackson was liable in a case involving a police chase.

Last December, the state Court of Appeals overturned a $300,000 damage award for a former Richland police officer who sued after he was injured in 2004 when a car being chased by Jackson police struck his personal vehicle.

A Hinds County judge found the city was 80 percent liable for Basil Thornton’s injuries while the juvenile who police were pursuing was 20 percent at fault.

The Appeals Court found the evidence in the case did not support finding the city more at fault than the juvenile who drove a stolen vehicle through a red light and collided with other vehicles, which ultimately caused the injuries to Thornton.

The Supreme Court this past week declined to hear Thornton’s appeal of the decision by the Appeals Court.

Thornton claimed he was forced to resign from the Richland Police Department, where he had been a patrol sergeant, because of his injuries.

According to the lawsuit, the juvenile was driving a car believed stolen when the Dec. 15, 2004, crash occurred. The chase occurred about 8:30 a.m. on a school day.

The Hinds County judge found police recklessly got involved in a chase that went past a church day care, a Head Start facility, Tougaloo College’s main entrance, residential neighborhoods, through a private yard and against traffic control devices.

The judge said the chase ultimately resulted in a crash, as the suspect tried to elude police.

The city appealed arguing it was unfair to place the majority of liability when evidence showed the juvenile created the dangerous situation by failing to stop for police.

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