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SKIPPER v. PRINCE GEORGE'S CTY.

May 29, 1986

SANDRA R. SKIPPER and DAVID R. SKIPPER, Plaintiffs
v.
PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT, SHAWN TAAFFE, and JOHN BAUER, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HOGAN

 This diversity action, which sounds in negligence and respondeat superior, was filed on January 27, 1986. In a three-count complaint, plaintiffs allege that on or about January 28, 1983, defendants Shawn Taaffe and John Bauer, who were employed by defendant Prince George's County ("P.G. County") and on duty as officers of defendant Prince George's County Police Department ("the Police Department"), pursued Raymond Vanfield (a non-party) in a high speed automobile chase that originated in P.G. County. Plaintiffs allege further that Taaffe and Bauer chased Vanfield across the county line into the District of Columbia, where the vehicle operated by Vanfield struck that of plaintiff Sandra R. Skipper at the intersection of Nash Street and Eastern Avenue, Northeast. The complaint contends that Vanfield was finally apprehended by Taaffe and Bauer at 48th and Lee Streets, Northeast. Sandra R. Skipper purportedly suffered severe neck and back injuries and a miscarriage because of the Vanfield collision.

 In Count I of the Complaint, the Skippers assert that P.G. County and the Police Department are liable to Sandra R. Skipper for having negligently selected, hired, trained and supervised Taaffe and Bauer, whose negligence proximately caused her injuries. In Count II, the plaintiffs seek $250,000 from Taaffe and Bauer for having negligently chased Vanfield into the District, and thereby having proximately caused the collision and injuries discussed above. David R. Skipper, Sandra's husband, seeks $50,000 in loss of consortium and related damages in Count III of the Complaint. *fn1"

 The Court must presently evaluate the respective motions to dismiss of defendants P.G. County and the Police Department, as well as the motion for a change of venue filed by Taaffe and Bauer. In consideration of said motions, and their respective oppositions and replies, the Court concludes that only the Police Department's motion to dismiss shall be granted. P.G. County's motion to dismiss and Taaffe and Bauer's motion for a change of venue shall be denied.

 A. P.G. County's Motion to Dismiss

 P.G. County has moved to dismiss the complaint under Rules 12(b)(1), (2), (3), and (6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. This defendant's challenge is based upon the argument that, "as a municipal corporation, Prince George's County, Maryland is immune from civil liability, except to the extent that its Charter affirmatively waives such immunity." P.G. County's Motion to Dismiss, at 1-2.

 Section 1013 of P.G. County's Charter provides in pertinent part as follows:

 
The County may be sued in actions sounding in tort for which its officers, agents, and employees may be liable, by actions filed in the courts of the State of Maryland, or in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, with a maximum liability of Two-hundred Fifty Thousand Dollars ($ 250,000) per individual, per occurrence, to the extent of its insurance coverage, whichever may be greater. . . .

 In Nevada v. Hall, 440 U.S. 410, 59 L. Ed. 2d 416, 99 S. Ct. 1182 (1979), the Supreme Court held that federal constitutional law did not prohibit one state's court from entering a judgment against or asserting jurisdiction over another sovereign state. The Hall Court decided that nothing in the United States Constitution required one state to accord immunity to a second state. In this diversity action, the Court is sitting as if it were a District of Columbia trial court. Under the ruling in Hall, therefore, this Court is not compelled by the Full Faith and Credit Clause to recognize the immunity provided P.G. County, a political subdivision of the State of Maryland, by Section 1013.

 This Court may, however, apply the immunity provision cited by P.G. County, if such an application would not violate the policies of the District. Biscoe v. Arlington County, 238 U.S. App. D.C. 206, 738 F.2d 1352, 1357 (D.C. Cir. 1984). In Arlington County, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the district court's refusal to recognize a Virginia law, which provided Virginia counties with full immunity for torts committed by county employees. In evaluating the choice of law problem before it under the governmental interest analysis, the Arlington County panel recognized that Virginia's immunity statute reflected both the state's concern for the financial integrity of its counties and its fear that the prospect of county liability would deter police officers from proper performance of their duties. Id. at 1360. Nonetheless, the court determined that the District's interests in deterring potential tortfeasors and compensating injured parties were paramount to Virginia's articulated interests. Id. at 1361. Accordingly, the Arlington County court concluded that Virginia's immunity law was contrary to the policies of the District of Columbia.

 In the present case, the Court, in accordance with this Circuit's Arlington County decision, concludes that an application of Section 1013 of P.G. County's Charter would also violate the policies of the District. Although the provision waives P.G. County's sovereign immunity, it is flawed in two respects in regard to this litigation. First, it requires an injured party to bring suit against a Maryland county in a Maryland forum (albeit that the United States District Court for the District of Maryland is an alternative); thus, the section would preclude a District of Columbia court from entertaining a suit brought by a District resident who was injured in the District. Second, Section 1013 limits a plaintiff's recovery to $250,000 for the tort liability of a P.G. County employee.

 These two restrictions are not found in the comparable District of Columbia provision that waives the District's immunity for "negligent operation of vehicles by District employees." D.C. Code Ann. ยง 1-1212 (1981) provides in pertinent part as follows:

 
The District of Columbia shall not assert the defense of governmental immunity in any suit at law in which a claim is asserted against it for money only on account of damage to or loss of property or on account of personal injury or death caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the District occurring as the result of the operation by such an employee, ...

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