Whitley v. Progressive Insured Ins. Co., 2010 Ohio 356 (Ohio Ct. App. Feb. 5, 2010)

Absent additional evidence, a sheriff's deputy's failure to activate his sirens and lights while responding to an emergency call does not rise to the level of willful and wanton behavior and is, therefore, protected under sovereign immunity.

The plaintiff-appellants were injured as a result of the plaintiff's motorcycle collided with a deputy sheriff’s vehicle. The deputy was responding to an emergency call and did not activate his siren, and the record was unclear as to whether he activated his lights. The issue on appeal is whether the deputy sheriff is entitled to summary judgment in his favor under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. The appellate court held that the trial court did not err in granting the appellees’ motion for summary judgment. The appellate court held that the record did not illustrate that the deputy's conduct was willful and wanton misconduct as a matter of law. The record did not demonstrate that he failed to exercise any care whatsoever to those to whom he owed a duty of care or that he had an intent, design, or purpose not to perform the duty of care owed. The appellate court, therefore, affirmed the judgment of the trial court in ruling that the deputy was protected under sovereign immunity.

Case Law Alert - 2nd Qtr 2010