Charleston Police Officer Sues Victim of Car Theft For Personal Injuries

From the West Virginia Record:

Police officer sues after stolen truck rammed into cruiser

By Cara Bailey -Kanawha Bureau

CHARLESTON – A Charleston police officer has filed a suit against a Kanawha County man after the man rammed a stolen truck into the police cruiser the officer was driving.

Craig Dickinson filed a suit Jan. 8 in Kanawha Circuit Court against Timothy Hannigan and Robert Lee Legg, Jr.

According to the suit, Legg stole Hannigan’s 1997 Ford pickup truck in the early morning of Dec. 5, 2006. The vehicle was parked outside Hannigan’s house, with the door unlocked and the keys in the vehicle.

The suit says Hannigan called the police to report the theft, and Dickinson responded.

Dickinson claims Legg used the truck to ram his cruiser, which made the cruiser inoperable. The collision also severely injured Dickinson.

According to the suit, Dickinson received treatment for his injuries after the collision and continues to receive treatment.

Hannigan is named as a defendant in the suit because he left his car unlocked with the keys in it, which allowed Legg to take it and use it to hit Dickinson.

In the three-count suit, Dickinson seeks compensatory and punitive damages for his injuries.

Attorney Teresa C. Toriseva is representing Dickinson. The case has been assigned to Judge Irene Berger.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 08-C-46

Note: Although the driver/car thief is liable for the negligent driving that caused the injuries to the plaintiff, also potentially liable is the victim of the car theft. Although the law states that generally the owner of a vehicle would not be liable in this situation if there was an interceding criminal act, such as a car theft. However, in this case, the allegation is that the owner of the vehicle himself was negligent by leaving the keys in the vehicle outside of the home and creating an opportunity for the car thief to steal the car. This also brings up a question of foreseeability. For the car theft victim to be liable to the car accident victim for negligence, it must be a foreseeable result of one leaving his keys outside in the car. In both cases, this will likely be an issue for the jury – was this negligence and was this a foreseeable result? – John H. Bryan, West Virginia car accident attorney.

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