The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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September 20, 2013

Court: Juvenile not responsible for officer's leg injury

CLINTON — A juvenile will not be required to pay $26,000 in restitution for injuries sustained by an officer who was pursuing him on foot.

The Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed a juvenile court’s denial of of restitution request filed by the state. The State maintained that Clinton Police Sgt. Terry St. Ores was injured in July 2012 while chasing the juvenile.

According to the judgment, a Clinton police officer followed a vehicle with a passenger he believed to be a juvenile subject with a detention order. The juvenile made rude comments and gestures to the officer after exiting the vehicle and ran away. Officers chased the individual across a field, at which point St. Ores’ injured his leg.

“While I was doing so (running after the juvenile), there was uneven ground, which I did not see. I lost my balance, fell, landing on my right leg, causing my hamstring to rupture and tear from a bone,” stated St. Ores in his investigative report, according to the judgment.

An MRI confirmed a hamstring rupture and showed the hamstring muscle was significantly pulled from the bone, according to the court decision.

The Iowa Court of Appeals discussed whether the juvenile (identified as J.S.) could foresee that the chase would cause harm to an officer. While agreeing that the juvenile provoked officers into pursuing him, the court questioned if he intended or expected to cause harm. The court pointed out in previous cases establishing foreseeable harm, weather and surface conditions existed causing a risk and those defendants chose paths that brought encounters with fences.

“In the present case, the events occurred on a July afternoon with no adverse weather or surface conditions, unless one considers the uneven field a surface condition,” the Court of Appeals judges wrote. “To hold J.S. civilly liable we must find that the risk of harm was foreseeable and that the harm was a result of the risk that made J.S.’s conduct tortious.”

The court found that St. Ores’ injuries were not within the “scope of liability of J.S’s conduct of running from the officers.”

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