Nebraska Not Responsible for Crash Involving State Patrol

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Nebraska Not Responsible for Crash Involving State Patrol

By Mark Barmann. CREATED Jul 1, 2011

Omaha, NE (AP) - The state is not responsible for a crash that occurred when a suspected car thief sped away from a state trooper, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The high court upheld a Sarpy County District Court ruling that the state was not responsible for a 2006 crash that left Kimberly Cotton of Nebraska City with debilitating injuries.

Cotton had sued under a state law that says the state is responsible when the actions of a pursuing law enforcement officer cause injury or death. She was hurt on March 8, 2006, when Aaron Anson, who was driving a stolen Mustang, lost control and hit a pickup, which then collided with Cotton's car on Highway 50 near Springfield.

Cotton's attorney claimed Anson was being chased by State Trooper Kent Kavan, because Kavan was speeding through traffic to catch up with the Mustang.

But a state attorney said trooper didn't have his lights or siren on and wasn't trying to arrest the suspect, only catch up to him to run the Mustang's license plate. Therefore, the state
argued, the trooper hadn't initiated a chase.

The Nebraska Supreme Court agreed with the lower court ruling that found Anson's reckless driving was the sole cause of the crash and Cotton's injuries.

"Even if there had been a vehicular pursuit under (Nebraska law), Kavan's actions were not a proximate cause of Cotton's injuries," the high court wrote.

On the day of the crash, the trooper was enforcing commercial vehicle rules and weighing trucks. But when Anson drove by, Kavan thought he recognized the car as a Mustang stolen from a Nebraska City dealership.

So Kavan pulled into traffic and tried to catch up to Anson, who began to pull away at speeds close to 100 mph.

Kavan accelerated to roughly 80 mph as he pursued Anson, but he did not catch up to him before the crash that hurt Cotton.

After the crash, Anson was able to keep driving the Mustang, so he pulled back onto the road and fled.

Kavan turned on his emergency lights when he approached the accident, and when he saw Anson flee, he pursued him. The state argues that this is the point when the actual chase began.

Anson was arrested a couple hours later after he ditched the stolen Mustang. He was convicted of fleeing to avoid arrest and spent 2 1/2 years in prison for his role in the crash.

Neither attorneys for Cotton nor the state immediately returned messages left Friday by The Associated Press.