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Court: Washington police not liable for drunk driver hitting drunk man lying in the road

| Monday, Feb. 12, 2018, 2:06 p.m.

Two Washington city police officers didn't cause a “state-created danger” when they didn't get a drunk man out of the road before a drunk driver hit him, a federal appeals court ruled.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that dismissed the man's civil rights claim against the officers and the Western Pennsylvania city. The man was “grievously injured” but survived, according to the ruling.

The officers initially parked their cruiser to protect the unconscious man from oncoming traffic and then roused him to get him off the street. Instead of following the officers' orders to step onto the nearby sidewalk, he walked across the intersection of Jefferson Avenue and West Chestnut Street, hit a pole and fell back into the street, stated the ruling issued Friday.

The officers then handcuffed the man and arrested him for public intoxication. While one officer went to move the cruiser so it would again protect the man, the other officer kept trying to get him to stand up and get out of the street, the ruling said.

That officer had to dive out of the way to avoid being hit by the car that struck the man, leaving him badly injured.

Far from disregarding the risk lying in the street posed to the man, the officers tried to reduce that risk, the judges said.

“The fact that those efforts were thwarted by a drunk driver does not mean they acted with conscious disregard,” the appeals court ruled.

Brian Bowling is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-1218, or via Twitter @TribBrian.

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