A federal appeals court overturned a lower court’s ruling Thursday, ruling that a unit of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. may be liable in a case involving a truck driver who failed to pull over during a high-speed chase that allegedly led to a state trooper seriously injures his hand.
Judgment in Anthony R. Efthemes v. Amguard Insurance Co.; Apex Transit, LLC; Malik Aleem by the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans involved the use of tire inflation devices commonly known as “stop sticks.”
According to the Department of Homeland Security, these devices, which are used by law enforcement officials to disable target vehicles, work by using a series of spikes to puncture the tires, resulting in a “controlled deflation”; that can end the road chase “without the danger caused by a flat tire.”
In May 2018, Efthemes, a Louisiana state trooper, alleged he was instructed to deploy stop sticks on the highway to clear a vehicle fleeing police, the ruling said.
The lawsuit alleges that the truck driver, who was driving an 18-wheeler near the vehicle being pursued by police, failed to observe emergency lights and sirens activated nearby or slow his truck or yield to law enforcement vehicles.
Instead, he ran over the stop sticks, causing Mr Eftheme’s hand to become entangled in their string and resulting in his injury.
Mr. Efthemes filed suit against the driver, his employer, Charlotte, North Carolina-based Apex, and Apex’s insurer, Berkshire unit Amguard.
The United States District Court in Lake Charles, Louisiana, granted the defendants summary judgment dismissing the case and was reversed by a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals.
“Given the statutory duty of motorists to immediately yield the right of way when an authorized emergency vehicle approaches and begin braking, a reasonable jury could find that (the driver) breached his duty by failing to change lanes and brake sooner than he did,”, it was stated in the judgment, by annulling the lower court’s decision and remanding the case for further processing.
Attorneys in the case did not respond to requests for comment.