Assuming a lawsuit is filed in federal court against the following defendants, (police department for incapabilities), (police who actually caused the accident for gross negligence), (the city for...

Assuming a lawsuit is filed in federal court against the following defendants, (police department for incapabilities), (police who actually caused the accident for gross negligence), (the city for negligence), which of these individuals would summary judgment mostly likely be granted, why?

Asked on by natralee

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I am assuming that this question is connected to your previous question in which a police officer has caused injury to innocent bystanders through his or her negligent actions.  If that is the case, I would argue that summary judgment is most likely to be granted against the individual officer rather than against the department or the city.

In order to see why this is so, let us first look at the circumstances in which summary judgment may be handed down.  In order for this to happen, the plaintiff in the case has to prove that there are no disputed issues of fact that are material to the case.  The plaintiff also has to prove that he or she would be entitled to judgment by the law.  This will be much easier to show with regard to the officer than with regard to the city or the department.

Let us think about what the officer might have done that would have caused injury to an innocent bystander.  It is likely that the officer might have been driving too fast during a car chase or might have discharged their weapon in an area where there were many bystanders.  In either case, there would be no real questions of fact.  It would be clear that the officer did or did not discharge their weapon or drive at a given rate of speed.  This would mean that it would be possible for summary judgment to be granted.

By contrast, let us think about what might make the city or the department liable.  Most likely, the city or department would be liable if they failed to train the officer properly or if they failed to supervise police officers sufficiently.  These things are not so easily established as the rate of speed of the police car or whether the officer discharged their weapon.  Therefore, it would be much less easy to establish that all the facts were undisputed before a trial even happened.  For these reasons, the individual officer is the one who is most likely to have summary judgment handed down against them.  

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