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City of Jackson v. Graham

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

September 12, 2017

CITY OF JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI APPELLANT
v.
WAVIE GRAHAM APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 05/15/2016

         COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT HON. WILLIAM A. GOWAN JR. TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: JAMES RICHARD DAVIS JR. MONICA DAVIS JOINER.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: BENJAMIN SETH THOMPSON STACY EVERETT PEPPER.

          BEFORE LEE, C.J., BARNES AND WESTBROOKS, JJ.

          WESTBROOKS, J.

         ¶1. This appeal arises from a notice of claim filed by Wavie[1] Graham against the City of Jackson pursuant to the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA). Graham asserted that Officer Undrae Martin acted with reckless disregard for the safety of others when he hit her truck in his patrol car. Following a bench trial, a judgment was entered in favor of Graham, and damages were awarded. Following the calculation of Graham's medical expenses, an amended order was entered, and damages were awarded to Graham in the amount of $121, 530.87. It is from this judgment that the City now appeals. After our review, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. Around November 12, 2010, at approximately 10:30 p.m., Graham and Annie Robinson left a church service at Word of Truth Church located on Northside Drive near Flag Chapel Road. Graham and Robinson were headed directly across the street to Graham's house after the service. Graham testified she looked both ways before crossing the four-lane highway to enter into her driveway, and that a car passed right before she drove into the street. Testimony determined that Graham and Robinson were headed somewhat eastbound on Northside Drive prior to impact.

         ¶3. Officer Martin proceeded down Northside Drive, toward Clinton, responding to a "priority two" emergency call[2] without using his emergency lights or siren. Officer Martin testified that use of sirens and police lights when answering a "priority two" call is discretionary. As Graham and Robinson crossed the street, Officer Martin struck the side of Graham's truck with his patrol car, a Crown Victoria.

         ¶4. Antonio Wallace, a witness at trial, testified that right before the accident, he heard what sounded like someone "racing cars." At the time, Wallace was the owner of an automotive shop located almost directly in front of Graham's church. Wallace also testified that after the crash, Officer Martin exited his vehicle and sat on its hood, while he and another man attended to Graham and Robinson. According to Wallace, Graham was pinned in the driver's side of the vehicle, and Robinson had been ejected from it and was crying.

         ¶5. Graham filed a notice of claim against the City of Jackson and Officer Martin, pursuant to the MTCA, alleging that Officer Martin acted with reckless disregard for the safety of the public. Graham testified that she could not remember all of the details regarding the accident. Officer Martin testified he suffered blunt-force trauma to his head as a result of the accident and could not recall all the details from that night.

         ¶6. The trial court used the ten factors the Mississippi Supreme Court previously used when analyzing police-pursuit cases, citing City of Jackson v. Gray, 72 So.3d 491 (Miss. 2011), and determined that the evidence supported a finding that Officer Martin acted in reckless disregard for the safety of others. Therefore, Officer Martin was not covered under the immunity afforded under the MTCA. The City now appeals.

         STANDARD ...


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