A federal appeals court on Thursday overturned a lower court decision and ruled that a unit of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. could be held liable in a case involving a truck driver who failed to pull away during a a high-speed chase, which would have resulted in a state trooper seriously injuring his hand.
The judgment in Anthony R. Eftemes v. Amguard Insurance Co.; Apex Transit, LLC; Malik Alem by the 5th United States 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 to disable target vehicles, work by using a row of spikes to puncture tires, resulting in a “controlled deflation” that can put end to road chases “without the danger of a flat tire.
In May 2018, Mr. Efthemes, a Louisiana state troper, alleged that he was ordered to deploy stop sticks on the highway to deflate a vehicle that was fleeing police, according to the ruling. .
The lawsuit accuses the truck driver, who was driving an 18-wheeler near the vehicle being chased by law enforcement, of failing to observe emergency lights and sirens activated nearby or of slowing down his truck or yielding law enforcement vehicles.
Instead, he rolled over the stop sticks, which resulted in Mr. Efthemes’ hand becoming entangled in their cord and resulting in his injury.
Mr Efthemes brought the action against the driver, his employer, Apex, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Apex’s insurer, the Amguard unit of Berkshire.
The U.S. District Court in Lake Charles, Louisiana, granted the defendants summary judgment dismissing the case and was reversed by a three-judge panel of the appeals court.
“Given the legal duty of motorists to immediately yield to an approaching authorized emergency vehicle and begin to brake, a reasonable jury could conclude that (the driver) breached his duty by not not changing lanes and not braking sooner than he did,” the ruling said, reversing the lower court’s decision and sending the case back for retrial.
Lawyers handling the case did not respond to requests for comment.