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Failure of Supervisory Involvement in Pursuit Contributes to Liability

Jack Ryan

Clark v. South Carolina Department of Public Safety, 2002 S.C. App. LEXIS ( S.C. Ct.App. 2002), involved a police pursuit conducted by the South Carolina Highway Patrol. Trooper Greg Bradley observed a van operating at 57 mph in a 45 mph zone. He attempted to pull the van over but the van took off. At one point the van stopped in a gravel parking lot, but took off again as the trooper exited his cruiser. The chase continued and picked up speed. The operator, Johnson, nearly “t-boned” a vehicle as he sped through an intersection against the traffic signal. At some point Johnson attempted to pass a pickup truck. In doing so, he went

left of center and struck a car driven by Amy Clark head-on. Amy Clark was killed in the crash.

It should be noted that at one point during the pursuit, a supervisor called in to ask if he was needed, but never actively got involved in supervising the pursuit. A second supervisor on duty did not monitor the pursuit because he was supervising a breathalyzer test. The policy of the South Carolina Highway Patrol required direct supervision of all pursuits.

A jury, after hearing the evidence in the case, awarded the Clark family 3.75 million dollars in damages. The jury found that Johnson was 80% at

fault and thus, responsible for 3 million dollars of the damage. The jury found the South Carolina Highway Patrol responsible for 20% of the damages based on the lack of supervisory involvement in the pursuit. This award of $750,000 was reduced by the court to “$250,000 in accordance with the limit imposed by the Tort Claims Act.”

After reviewing the case, the court upheld the award for the estate noting that the supervisors had not conformed with their duties to monitor and actively supervise the pursuit.

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