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Dudley v. Massachusetts State Police

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Bristol

June 1, 2017

RICHARD DUDLEY, JR.
v.
MASSACHUSETTS STATE POLICE.

          Heard: December 1, 2016.

         Civil action commenced in the Superior Court Department on February 1, 2013. The case was heard by William F. Sullivan, J., on a motion for summary judgment.

          Jason R. Markle for the plaintiff.

          Andrew W. Koster, Assistant Attorney General, for the defendant.

          Present: Cypher, Maldonado, & Blake, JJ. [1]

          MALDONADO, J.

         The plaintiff, Richard Dudley, Jr., commenced this negligence action, pursuant to the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act (Act), G. L. c. 258, seeking damages from the defendant, Massachusetts State Police (State police), for injuries he suffered as a result of being attacked, in a public parking lot, by a trained police dog. Moments before the attack occurred, State Trooper Edward T. Blackwell, an experienced police canine handler, had been in pursuit of a criminal suspect who fled, on foot, taking a circuitous route through that parking lot.

         Dudley sued the State police, a public employer and agent of the Commonwealth, [2] alleging that Trooper Blackwell's conduct, in releasing the police dog to apprehend a suspect in a public space, where the presence of others would be expected, created a foreseeable and substantial risk of harm to an innocent bystander.

         The State police answered the complaint, engaged in discovery, and then filed a motion for summary judgment, based on the ground of sovereign immunity under G. L. c. 258. Following a hearing, a judge of the Superior Court allowed the State police's motion, ruling that Dudley's negligence claim was barred by the immunity provisions of the Act, §§ 10 (b) and (j) Dudley appeals from the separate and final judgment. See Mass.R.Civ.P.54(b), 365 Mass. 820 (1974). We reverse.

         1. Background.

         The chase. In the early afternoon of May 6, 2011, William P. Monopoli led several State police troopers on a high-speed motor vehicle chase, which began in Boston and ended in West Bridgewater.

         While speeding down the highway, Monopoli abruptly pulled his truck off the road onto an exit ramp. At the top of the ramp, Monopoli lost control of his truck, crossed the roadway's double yellow lines, and crashed into a guardrail or curb. He then exited his truck and quickly fled on foot, jumping over a fence into a park and ride commuter lot. Trooper Blackwell, who was following the suspect in a State police cruiser, pulled behind Monopoli's truck.

         The bite.

         Trooper Blackwell stepped outside of the cruiser, with his trained patrol dog, Jager, [3] on a leash. Trooper Blackwell yelled to Monopoli and ordered him to give himself up, adding that, if he did not do so, the dog would be sent after him. Monopoli did not stop. He scaled over the fence into the commuter parking lot, out of the Trooper's immediate vision. Trooper Blackwell, knowing the lot was more than half full, commanded Jager to apprehend and he let go of the dog's leash, ...


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