The Minnesota Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision Wednesday, threw out a lawsuit against a Hennepin County deputy who crashed into a car and critically injured its driver while responding to a burglary call on Christmas Day in 2009.
Jolene Vassallo of Minneapolis filed a lawsuit against Deputy Sheriff Jason Majeski and Hennepin County, alleging negligence on behalf of the deputy in turning off his siren before entering the intersection.
IMMUNITY FOR FIRST RESPONDERS
Minnesota law says, "a public official charged by law with duties which call for the exercise of his (or her) judgment or discretion Is not personally liable to an individual for damages unless he is guilty of a willful or malicious wrong."
Thinking he was close to the suspects, and not wanting to alert them of his presence, the deputy turned off his siren but kept his lights flashing as he entered the intersection of 93rd Avenue and West Broadway in Brooklyn Park.
As Deputy Majeski's squad entered the intersection, Vassallo's car came toward him. The deputy tried to avoid Vassallo's car, but could not.
Since the deputy's actions "did not involve a willful or malicious wrong, he was entitled to official immunity," Justice Alan Page wrote in the majority opinion.
"Deputy Majeski testified that in training he was also told that any time that you would -- you exceed state and local traffic laws in response to getting a call, you need to activate your emergency red lights and sirens," Justice G. Barry Anderson wrote in a dissenting opinion. "This explanation implies that Deputy Majeski was trained to keep the lights and siren activated as long as he was violating traffic laws, as when running a red light."
Read the full decision and dissent at http://bit.ly/1omBGV3
LAWYER: VICTIM DENIED JUSTICE
"The majority decision simply rubber-stamped the actions of the Deputy without any oversight by judge or jury," said a statement from Vassallo's attorney, Douglas Schidt. "Further, his driving behavior will never be questioned. Jolene Vassallo will never get her day in court. I am profoundly sad for Jolene Vassallo and profoundly sad for all of the other Jolene Vassallo's that will be denied justice in the future."