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Clayton County v. Segrest

Court of Appeals of Georgia

July 13, 2015


Page 580

Cert. applied for.

High-speed chase. Clayton Superior Court. Before Judge Carter.

Freeman, Mathis & Gary, Jack R. Hancock, Sun S. Choy, A. Ali Sabzevari, for appellant.

Larry E. Stewart, R. Andres Marierose, for appellee.


Page 581

Ellington, Presiding Judge.

During a police pursuit, the suspect's vehicle struck the motorcycle of James Segrest, who died from his injuries. Karen Segrest, James Segrest's surviving spouse, filed this wrongful death action against Clayton County. Segrest contended that the County's officer showed reckless disregard for proper law enforcement procedures in his decisions to initiate and continue the pursuit of the suspect, and so caused the decedent's death. Following our grant of its application for interlocutory appeal, the County appeals from the trial court's order denying its motions to disqualify Segrest's experts and its motion for summary judgment. The County claims that the trial court erred in denying its motions to disqualify to the extent that the experts' opinions are not reliable, do not assist the trier of fact, and [333 Ga.App. 86] amount to legal conclusions. The County further contends that, as its officer did not recklessly disregard proper law enforcement procedures, the trial court erred in denying its motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the trial court's order denying the County's motion for summary judgment, and, as to the order denying the County's motions to disqualify, we affirm in part and reverse in part.[1]

Under OCGA § 9-11-56 (c),

[s]ummary judgment is warranted if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. We review the grant or denial of a motion for summary judgment de novo, and we view the evidence, and the reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, in a light most favorable to the nonmovant.

(Punctuation and footnotes omitted.) Assaf v. Cincinnati Ins. Co., 327 Ga.App. 475, 475-476 (759 S.E.2d 557) (2014).

The evidence shows that on the evening of August 14, 2008, Lance Locke was driving south on I-75 when he saw a Clayton County police officer parked on the side of the freeway. Locke saw the officer pull out and begin to accelerate behind him. The County's officer testified that when Locke passed by he saw him speeding, change lanes, and " cut[ ] off" another vehicle, which was forced to brake in order to avoid a collision. The officer assessed that Locke was operating his vehicle with no regard for his safety or the safety of others, and that he had committed the offense of reckless driving. Locke averred that he did not make any abrupt lane changes, cut off any cars, or come close to causing or being in a wreck.

Page 582

When Locke exited off of I-75 onto State Route 54, the officer also exited the freeway. As Locke exited the highway, his car crossed the right fog line of the exit ramp. After Locke reached the end of the ramp, his car again crossed the fog line as he made a right turn from the ramp onto State Route 54, and at that time the officer activated the blue and red lights of his patrol car, signaling that Locke should pull over and stop. According to the officer, he initiated the traffic stop [333 Ga.App. 87] because of Locke's multiple lane violations and reckless driving. He also maintained that he had reason to suspect Locke was driving under the influence.

Rather than stop, Locke accelerated and attempted to elude the officer. Locke averred that he had previously received a traffic citation for which he had failed to appear in court, and he assumed that the officer had signaled for him to stop because a warrant had been issued on the outstanding traffic ticket. According to Locke, he knew of no traffic violation that he had made from the time he first saw the officer until the officer signaled him to pull over and stop.

The officer pursued Locke on State Route 54, a 45 mph zone, through intersections and red traffic lights at up to 110 mph, but Locke was traveling even faster. During the pursuit, Locke's vehicle struck the motorcycle driven by the decedent, who died from the resulting injuries. Locke averred that he would not have accelerated to the speeds which he reached had the officer not chased him; rather, Locke maintained, had the officer ...

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