Civil Issues

Ted, a purely fictional character, is a police captain in the fictional city of Shorfolk, Virginia, a medium sized city on the mid-Atlantic coast. In an effort to improve police-citizen relations, Ted initiates the Aretha Frankiln Ride-along program. Ted tells his chief that the program will generate R-E-S-P-E-C-T for the department, once citizens get a glimpse at what officers do daily.

The program is an early success. Several dozen citizens have completed ride-alongs without incident. That is, until Virgil Lante (“Vig” to his friends) does his ride-along one fateful night with Officer Andy Pathy. (A. Pathy on his name badge) Lante is a citizen of Ohio who is visiting his cousin in Shorfolk for the summer. Pathy is an 18 year patrol officer who has never been promoted. Pathy is tired of the street and just wants a nice quiet desk job where he can wait it out until retirement. While Pathy will faithfully answer calls when dispatched, no one has ever accused him of being overly proactive. On this night, Pathy pulls into a 7-11, hoping to score some free coffee. He tells Lante not to touch anything, leaves the car running, and goes into the 7-11. Jumping at his one chance to drive a real police car, Lante jumps out of the passenger side, gets in the driver’s seat, and drives away.

When Pathy exits the store he is horrified to see his car pulling away, a crazed looking Lante at the wheel. Sensing that losing his car to his ride-along passenger might earn him a chat with Internal Affairs, Pathy tries to get help unofficially. He calls his friend Officer Sluggo via cell phone, being careful to stay off his police radio. Pathy’s friend Sluggo races towards the 7-11 with lights and siren going. As Sluggo blast through an intersection at 60 miles an hour , he runs into the Tourist family. TheTourists are a family of four (mom, dad, 2 kids) from Ohio, driving a minivan. Despite the 16 airbags in their minivan, all four of the Tourists are severely injured in the crash. Also in the van at the time was Seaman Schmuckatelli. Mr. Tourist was a member of the Navy League and even on vacation he went out of his way to give sailors rides. Schmuckatelli had been hitch-hiking when the Tourists had stopped to give him a ride 10 minutes before the accident. Schmuckatelli is also severely injured in the crash. Schmuckatelli is originally from North Carolina but has been stationed in Shorfolk for the last three years. He still maintains a NC driver’s license.

Captain Ted gets word of the accident the next day at work. As the chief is on leave, Ted immediately goes across the plaza to City Hall and speaks with the City Attorney. The city attorney is very concerned. He immediately figures that injuring a family of four, plus a sailor, is far worse than running someone over on the beach. The city might be on the hook for millions. He tells Ted to give him all the background memos on this foolish ride-along program. Ted goes back to his office and pulls up everything he has on the program. The file consists of everything from his first proposal to a series of memos back and forth concerning the logistics of the program. Ted is a little concerned when he finds a memo (prepared by him) entitled, “Things that could go wrong, especially foreseeable things” “That’s a dumb title for a memo” Ted thinks to himself. Ted gives the entire file to the city attorney. The city attorney thanks him and says the material will be very helpful in preparing the city’s defense to the anticipated lawsuit.

Mr. and Mrs. Tourist decide to sue the City of Shorfolk for their injuries. They sue Lante, Captain Ted, and the chief in their individual capacities. They also sue Pathy and Sluggo individually, and the City of Shorfolk Police Department. They allege gross negligence on the part of Sluggo and Pathy, negligence on the part of the city for failing to properly screen the ride-along applicants, and both negligence and intentional torts against Lante. They further allege that under 42 USC 1983, they were denied their civil rights by being unlawfully seized when a Sluggo’s police car slammed into them.

A. Can the Tourists sue in federal or state court? What are the advantages and disadvantages to state v. federal court?
B. What if Schmuckatelli wants to join the lawsuit? Does he have any effect on diversity jurisdiction?


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