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State Supreme Court hears injury suit involving Highway Patrol

A case orbiting a crash between a patrol vehicle and a civilian was heard in front of the state Supreme Court this week. The personal injury suit questions who was at fault, quality of care, and financial awards.

The case, Weiland v. Bumann, dates to 2017 crash after Highway Patrol officer Patrick Baumann made a U-turn while he had an obstructed view and was struck by Todd Weiland.

Neither required medical care at the time of the crash, however Weiland eventually sought treatment in 2019. That sparked the personal injury suit in March of 2020, and Baumann denied liability.

A jury found Weiland was partially negligent for his role in the crash due to driving slightly above the speed limit. Weiland’s council, Michael Bornitz, said there isn’t enough to connect his clients speeding to causing any injuries in the crash.

“Obviously at the time of the crash he was going slower, but it requires expert testimony, there’s just no doubt about that," Bornitz said. "That going three to four miles per hour had some effect on the injuries, Dr. Carlson, who was the defense’s medical doctor in this case, never offered any opinion in that regard. Their sole argument for contributory negligence was ‘Dr. Weiland was speeding,’ and that’s not enough.”

However, Baumann contends he made necessary evasive moves to lessen the impact of the crash. Melanie Carpenter, council for Bumann, explained.

“Mr. Bumann had extensive driving training as a highway patrol officer," Carpenter said. "Instead of attempting to make a full 180-degree U-turn, he made a 90-degree turn and tried to go south and get his vehicle off the roadway and into the ditch, so the vehicles were perpendicular to one another at that point. He was accelerating into the ditch when he was hit, and he actually made it onto the shoulder of the road and that’s where this accident happened – the impact was on the shoulder.”

The jury in the 2022 lower court ruling awarded Weiland $17,500 in non-economic damages, $1,161 in past medical expenses, and no money in future medical expenses.

Weiland’s appeal questions if the circuit court erred in motions for a judgement and erred in denying his request from presenting a per diem tally of the damages to the jury.

The case is under consideration and no decision has been returned yet.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture