Contrary to Appellant's argument, Court emphasizes that state of mind is of no import as the first issue to consider in either a claim for negligence or reckless conduct is whether the defendant had a personal duty of care toward the injured party. Trooper Lyle owed no personal duty of care to the decedent for any tort, including negligence and recklessness, unless he acted in bad faith or with malice, neither of which is implicated by the facts.
Dwayne Throneberry asserted three causes of action against Trooper Dustin Lyle and the Missouri State Highway Patrol -- negligence, negligence per se, and recklessness -- as well as two additional causes of action against the MSHP -- failure to train, instruct and supervise Trooper Lyle, and negligence pursuant to the doctrine of respondeat superior. Throneberry appeals from the trial court's entry of summary judgment in favor of the MSHP and Trooper Lyle on all counts. Throneberry argues that the trial court erred because, as a matter of law, Trooper Lyle's actions during a police pursuit were the proximate cause of a collision that killed Throneberry's sister. Throneberry also argues that the trial court erred because there was a genuine issue of material fact in dispute regarding Trooper Lyle's state of mind which prevented the entry of summary judgment on Throneberry's recklessness claims against both Defendants.
Division Three holds:
(1) The official immunity doctrine protects public employees from liability for alleged acts of negligence committed during the course of their official duties for the performance of discretionary acts. The official immunity doctrine shields Trooper Lyle from tort liability because his decision to commence and continue pursuit of the suspect was a discretionary act and because there are not facts alleged from which it could be reasonably inferred that Trooper Lyle acted in bad faith or with malice.
(2) The public duty doctrine provides that a public employee is not civilly liable for the breach of a duty owed to the general public, rather than a particular individual. The duties owed by a police officer during a pursuit are duties owed to the public generally. Trooper Lyle owed no personal duty of care to Throneberry's sister for any tort, including negligence and recklessness, unless he acted in bad faith or with malice, neither of which is implicated by the controverted or uncontroverted facts framed in the summary judgment pleadings.
(3) Sovereign immunity is a tort protection for governmental entities. Section 537.600.1 waives sovereign immunity for those injuries "directly resulting from the negligent acts or omissions by public employees arising out of the operation of motor vehicles or motorized vehicles within the course of their employment." Recklessness is a distinct cause of action from negligence. Thus, the cause of action alleging that Trooper Lyle recklessly operated a motor vehicle is outside the scope of the waiver. And the cause of action alleging the MSHP was directly negligent in failing to properly train, instruct, or supervise Trooper Lyle is plainly not within the scope of the statutory waiver from sovereign immunity.
(4) The remaining three causes of action against the MSHP -- negligence, negligence per se, and negligence on the theory of respondeat superior -- require Throneberry to establish that Trooper Lyle's actions during the police pursuit were the proximate cause of the collision. In determining whether the officer's negligence was the proximate cause of the collision, we look to the particular facts of the case, mindful that proximate cause cannot be based on pure speculation and conjecture. The only conceivable causal link between the officer's alleged negligence and the collision is the conjectural effect of the pursuit on the suspect's vehicle so that it is impossible to know whether a collision would have been avoided had the officer abandoned the pursuit.