In an interesting ruling out of Montana, the Montana Supreme Court has found that prisoner transport is an "inherently dangerous" activity. As such, the high court overturned a ruling that denied a trial to a prisoner who was injured in a crash of a prisoner transport van. The man was being returned from Florida on a probation revocation matter. The driver was killed in the 2003 accident. The injured prisoner had sued the state and the county (Park County), but the District Court, in 2007, granted summary judgment to the government entities. The private transport company had no insurance and went out of business after the crash.
The article doesn’t say, but it seems that the government entities may have been attempting to avoid liability on an inmmunity basis. Government entities may avoid liability for ordinary negligence in certain situations, but in this case, it seems, they ran into two distinct problems (only the first of which is a stated cause in the opinion): 1. The court found that prisoner transport was an inherently dangerous activity, and 2. They contracted with a company that was not insured (which may, in and of itself constitute gross negligence).
Citizens should be aware that lawsuits against the government are possible, but the standards to pursue them are usually higher. A gross negligence or inherently dangerous type finding is usually required, although some laws contain specific exceptions. To determine whether your situation is the rule or the exception, contact an attorney in your area, who specializes in these types of cases. Attorneys should take note of and, potentially use, the finding that prisoner transport was found to be an inherently dangerous activity in Montana.
This case has been pending through hearings and appeals since 2003. It is hard to imagine how this injured former prisoner has supported himself all of this time, with litigation going nowhere until 2009. Lawsuit funding helps people support themselves through difficult times and complex litigation. This litigation is a sad commentary on how slow the wheels of justice can sometimes be in addressing plaintiffs’ rights. A persistant attorney together with strategically placed lawsuit funding may combine to make a difference in the outcome of your litigation.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.