Appeal No. 117,518: Shelby Montgomery and Scott E. Bennett v. Patrick R. Saleh and State of Kansas
Archived oral argument video
Montgomery and Bennett were injured when a car driven by Robert Horton ran a red light and collided with Bennett's truck. Horton was being pursued by Saleh, a Kansas Highway Patrol trooper. Montgomery and Bennett sued Saleh, claiming he was negligent for failing to end his pursuit of Horton earlier than he did. They also sued the State of Kansas under a theory of vicarious liability. The district court granted summary judgment for Saleh and the State. The Court of Appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for trial, holding the plaintiffs should be allowed to proceed with their negligence action against Saleh. The Supreme Court granted the defendants' petition for review. In a per curiam decision, a majority of the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals and reversed the district court, allowing the case to proceed to trial against Saleh. The majority held Saleh owed Montgomery and Bennett a statutory duty to drive with due regard to their safety. The majority of the Supreme Court next held the plaintiffs presented enough evidence that Saleh breached his duty of care that a jury could reasonably find in their favor. The question of breach of duty therefore became a fact question to be decided by a jury. The majority of the Supreme Court then considered whether the plaintiffs had established a prima facie case for proximate cause—both causation in fact and causation in law. The majority concluded the evidence the plaintiffs proferred was sufficient to have that question decided by a jury. Finally, the majority of the Supreme Court held Saleh was not protected by statutory immunity provisions. The plaintiffs did not seek review of the portion of the Court of Appeals decision in favor of the State of Kansas, and that ruling was accordingly affirmed.
Justice Eric Rosen wrote a dissent, which was joined by Justice Caleb Stegall and by Judge Henry Green, who was sitting in place of retired Justice Lee Johnson. The dissent argued the facts as proferred by the plaintiffs failed to show Saleh's conduct breached a duty of care and no evidence showed Saleh demonstrated a conscious and unjustifiable disregard of the danger presented by the situation. The dissent also contended the plaintiffs' evidence was insufficient to support a finding that Saleh's conduct was the cause of the accident. The dissent maintained the evidence was speculative and would require a jury to make ungrounded assumptions about Horton's behavior as he fled Saleh's pursuit.