If An Injury Occurs Before a Chase Is Called Off the Jury Determines Whether the Quarry's Negligence Is a Superseding Cause
In Sundin v. Hughes, 107 Ill. App. 2d 195, 246 N.E.2d 100 (1969), the plaintiff was a pedestrian that was struck by the body of another pedestrian, who had been struck by a fleeing driver during a police pursuit.
The Sundin court determined that a negligence action against the defendant police officer, who had initiated the pursuit, could be maintained.
It was held that the behavior of a fleeing driver during a pursuit by the defendant officer, who failed to sound or display any warning during the pursuit, was foreseeable and therefore not a superceding cause. Sundin, 107 Ill. App. 2d at 203.
The Sundin court also held that it was not essential that the defendant could have foreseen the precise injury which ultimately occurred.
In the previously referenced treatise on torts, Professor Dan Dobbs specifically addressed the application of proximate causation in the context of a police pursuit case:
"Contemporary cases involving high speed police chases also illustrate the principle that when the intervening acts are themselves within the risk created by the defendant, they are not superseding causes.
Police in pursuit of a law violator may enjoy an immunity from liability or they may not be negligent at all.
But if they have no immunity and they are in fact negligent, the risk they create is that some person will be harmed by the negligent high-speed driving of the police or their quarry.
If the quarry collides with bystanders, the quarry's negligence cannot logically count as a superseding cause, since, by hypothesis, the police, if negligent at all, must have been negligent because they could foresee that the high speed chase might injure someone.
The quarry's negligence was not only foreseeable, but was the very risk that made the officers negligent.
Most courts therefore hold that when injury occurs before the chase is called off, it is for the jury to determine whether the quarry's negligence is a superseding cause." D. Dobbs, Torts 192, at 479-80 (2001).