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Manning & Kass Appellate Team to Litigate Peace Officer Immunity Statute in the California Supreme Court

On November 1, 2017 the California Supreme Court granted review to consider whether the immunity provided by Vehicle Code section 17004.7 to public agencies that adopt and promulgate vehicle pursuit policies is available to a public agency only if all peace officers of the agency certify in writing that they have received, read, and understand the agency's vehicle pursuit policy.

Vehicle pursuit policy issues are among the most important civil liability issues facing city and county law enforcement agencies across California. Vehicle Code section 17004.7 provides public agency immunity for agencies that adopt vehicle pursuit policies. In 2007 the law was amended to add a requirement that the agency also "promulgate" its policy in order to qualify for the immunity. Two Courts of Appeal have interpreted the promulgation provision and reached opposite conclusions. Morgan v. Beaumont Police Department (2016) 246 Cal.App.4th 144, decided by the Fourth Appellate District, ruled that every officer of a public entity must certify that he or she has received, read and understands the entity's vehicle pursuit policy, such that the failure of a single officer to certify by the date of a given pursuit incident disqualifies the entity from immunity. Ramirez v. City of Gardena (2017) 14 Cal.App.4th 811, decided by the Second Appellate District, ruled that imposition by a public agency of a requirement that all its officer certify that they have received, read and understand the policy satisfies the promulgation requirement.

In an unusual step, Manning & Kass, Ellrod, Ramirez, Trester LLP, on behalf of the City of Gardena, urged the California Supreme Court to grant review of the Ramirez case, in which the law firm had obtained a ruling on summary judgment that the City was entitled to immunity under the statute, urging the Court to resolve the conflict and provide guidance to law enforcement entities as to what is required to secure the immunity the Legislature provided entities whose officers are involved in vehicle pursuits. Without uniformity of decision regarding the requirements for securing the immunity, the City of Gardena asserted, the intended function of the statute to motivate law enforcement agencies to adopt and implement pursuit policies will be significantly undermined and trial courts will be left in confusion. The appellate team at Manning & Kass, Ellrod, Ramirez, Trester LLP looks forward to presenting the concerns of the law enforcement community to the California Supreme Court in this case of great importance to law enforcement agencies across the State.

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