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Broward County, FL

This action against the City of Fort Lauderdale arose from the death of a 14-year-old boy who crashed his ATV into a concrete sound barrier. The plaintiff alleged that the accident was caused by the negligence of the defendant’s police officer in pursuing the youth. A second plaintiff, a 25-year-old female, was a passenger on the ATV at the time of the incident. The defendant maintained that the officer saw the ATV, but did not pursue it. The case was bifurcated and tried on the issue of liability first, and then damages on the wrongful death claim only.

The incident occurred in March, ________, as the decedent was riding an ATV with the plaintiff passenger in a residential Fort Lauderdale neighborhood. The youngster saw the defendant’s police vehicle at an intersection and left the area.

The plaintiff alleged that the defendant’s officer pursued the ATV, causing it to crash into a sound barrier. Evidence showed that the decedent’s head struck the passenger side mirror of a parked pick-up truck just before he struck the sound barrier. The young decedent was pronounced dead at the scene.

The plaintiff passenger testified that the police vehicle did not activate lights or siren, but pursued the ATV, immediately prompting the decedent to flee. The plaintiff passenger supported that the officer continued to follow the ATV until the time it crashed into the sound barrier. The plaintiff passenger sustained a fractured ankle and internal injuries as a result of the collision. The plaintiff also called several witnesses who confirmed that the officer was chasing the ATV.

The defendant’s officer testified that he was responding to a noise complaint in the residential neighborhood when he spotted the decedent and passenger on the ATV. The officer contended that the decedent drove away at a high rate of speed and he lost sight of him. The youngster then lost control of the vehicle several blocks away, according to the defense. The officer denied that he pursued the ATV. He was cleared of fault by an internal police investigation following the accident.In the liability phase of the trial, the jury found the defendant officer 65% negligent, and the minor decedent 35% comparatively negligent. The wrongful death claim was then tried on damages with an award of $________, reduced accordingly. The case was settled after the verdict for the defendant’s statutory liability cap of $________ ($________ per plaintiff).

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