MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We’ve all heard the warnings and learned the law: Move over if you see an emergency vehicle.
But what if you don’t see or hear the emergency vehicle, and they don’t see your vehicle until it’s too late? That’s what happened to a woman in Blaine when a police car went through a red light, striking her car. As WCCO discovered, emergency workers are protected, and it’s the innocent victim that could be left with the bill.READ MORE: Powers Propels Lynx To 84-78 Victory Over Liberty
It was Labor Day weekend in 2011. A Blaine police officer responds to a 911 call of a possible suicidal person on I-35. Speeds reach 100 mph on the 50 mph road. His lights stay on, but the officer decides to turn the siren off. Approaching an intersection, he slows to 74 mph. And then, the officer speeds through a red light.
“I look over and there’s two cop cars,” Alyssa Sweesy said. “And I just said to myself ‘I’m done.’ And that’s all I remember,”
Sweesy lost consciousness when she was hit.
“He was on his way to save somebody, but injured an innocent person and almost killed her,” mom Kim Sweesy said.
Alyssa Sweesy, a mother of two, said she had head trauma and needed physical therapy on her left leg. After the crash, a doctor diagnosed her with PTSD and depression.
“I can’t get the image out of my head, of being hit,” Sweesy said.
The Sweesys want the city of Blaine to cover Alyssa’s medical expenses, many that are now past due.READ MORE: Donate To The Salvation Army's Flood Relief Effort
“To me, it looks cut and dry,” Kim Sweesy said.
It’s not. In 2009, a Hennepin County Sheriff’s Deputy went through a red light, striking and critically injuring Jolene Vassallo on Christmas Day. The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled 4 to 3 in 2014 that the deputy could not be held liable in the crash. Vassallo requires around the clock care in a nursing home, with medical bills topping $500,000.
“The court said, ‘It’s sad, it’s too bad, but that’s the law,'” Joe Daly said.
The retired Mitchell-Hamline law professor explains the concept of governmental immunity.
“We don’t want our government officials or government employees to be afraid of doing their job, getting sued for doing their job,” Daly said. “Yes, we are all at risk. If we get hit by an emergency vehicle on its way to help another person.”
“It’s really hard to see one of your children struggle like this, and there’s nothing I can do,” Kim Sweesy said.
In the Blaine case, the city recently made the family what it calls “a voluntary offer” of $5,000 to cover some of their costs. It was not accepted.MORE NEWS: Next Weather: Soaking Rain Wednesday, Weekend Warmup Ahead
Daly thinks the only way to change governmental immunity is through the legislature.