Family Files Wrongful Death Suit Over Police Chase That Ended in Fatality

It seems that everyday when our personal injury lawyers open the paper, we read about another wrongful death in the context of a high speed police chase. Today, we read about another tragic police chase, this one in Montana. The Billings Gazette reported that the family of a Billings nurse killed by a drunken teenager who was fleeing from police has filed a wrongful death and negligence lawsuit, claiming city officers and county deputies violated their own pursuit policies. Stahl died shortly before 7 a.m. on April 18, 2008, when her car was hit broadside by a GMC Jimmy driven by 17-year-old Brian Houston. Stahl was on her way to work as an operating-room nurse at Billings Clinic. The collision happened when the Jimmy went through a stop sign and hit Stahl’s car.The lawsuit also claims that after the crash that killed 27-year-old Lillian Stahl, city and county law enforcement agencies lied to the public by stating that the sheriff’s deputy leading the pursuit called off the chase several blocks before the fatal collision. According to the article, allegations against the law enforcement agencies in the lawsuit include: the first city officer involved in the incident was driving an unmarked police car; the chase was unwarranted because the driver was suspected of committing only misdemeanor offenses and had been partially identified; that numerous patrol cars from both agencies converged on the area and joined in the chase; and that a city officer’s written report and patrol car video “don’t match up.” The teenager was charged as an adult with negligent vehicular homicide and other felonies. He eventually plead guilty and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The full article in the Billings Gazette can be found at A photograph of the innocent victim should remind readers that all citizens are vulnerable to being killed by these senseless and reckless chases. Once again, a high speed police chase occurred involving a non-violent felony and an innocent person paid the price for this reckless disregard of proper police procedure with their life. What the public does not realize is that the number of victims nationwide in high speed pursuits is greater than the number of victims killed in the 911 destruction of the World Trade Towers. Indeed, the number of those killed and maimed in high speed pursuits are similar to the number of those killed and maimed in the Iraq war. This is a nationwide problem which is particularly acute here in Georgia. And yet, the chases (for non-violent offenders) continue and the innocent die. All of these cases read the same – only the names change. As of the writing of this entry to our blog, our lawyers have filed 6 different lawsuits involving 8 deaths in Georgia, all arising in the context of high speed police pursuits.
Our attorneys at Finch McCranie, LLP will continue to represent the interests of innocent victims. Hopefully, litigation will curb these unwarranted and dangerous police chases. The goal is to get the police community to recognize that they should only chase for violent offenders and should not chase when the danger to the public caused by the chase outweighs the danger presented by the suspect. If enough Georgia juries intervene and condemn these chases with their verdicts, hopefully, lives in Georgia will be saved.

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