A measure which would have limited who could file a lawsuit after being injured in a police pursuit has failed to overcome a filibuster and appears to be dead for this legislative session.
Sen. Dan Watermeier of Syracuse fell two votes short of the total needed to end a filibuster mounted against LB 188, which earlier had cleared the first round of debate. The vote on cloture was 31-9 with four senators not voting. Thirty-three votes are needed to end a filibuster.
Watermeier contends the current definition of “innocent third party” now used is too broad and has been abused.
“But, I guess I just brought this argument back to what’s right and wrong,” Watermeier tells colleagues during legislative debate. “I mean who should be collecting a million dollars from the state of Nebraska?”
The bill, as amended, would not allow someone to automatically collect damages against a city, county, or the state if they had encouraged the driver to flee police, were sought by authorities, or engaged in a felony during the chase or immediately prior to getting into the fleeing vehicle.
Watermeier says while his bill would eliminate some who would automatically qualify for claims, it would leave alone negligence claims.
“If the police department is negligent, if they are negligent in any one thing that they’ve done, they’re still going to be able to collect a million dollars from the city or the county, and potentially even more than that from the state,” according to Watermeier.
The bill ran into strong opposition from Sen. Ernie Chambers of Omaha who authored the current law, successfully guiding it through the legislature in 1981. Chambers criticizes Watermeier for rejecting an amendment he claimed would have improved the bill.
“Sen. (Paul) Schumacher crafted an amendment, presented it, and you rejected it,” Chambers says. “So, now, you’ve made your bed, I’m going to force you to lie in it.”
Supporters of the effort say current law is too broad and can allow anyone injured in a pursuit to collect damages, even if they are a wanted felon or encouraged the driver to flee.
LB 188 advanced from the first round of debate on a 34-6 vote.