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County of Sacramento v. Lewis

Significance, Further Readings


County of Sacramento, et al.


Teri Lewis and Thomas Lewis, representing the estate of Philip Lewis

Petitioners' Claim

Motorcycle passenger Philip Lewis' due process rights were violated when a police officer, in an attempt to apprehend the driver of the motorcycle, chased the motorcycle at high speeds and eventually struck Lewis.

Chief Lawyer for Petitioners

Terence J. Cassidy

Chief Lawyer for Respondents

Paul J. Hedlund

Justices for the Court

Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony M. Kennedy, Sandra Day O'Connor, William H. Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia, David H. Souter (writing for the Court), John Paul Stevens, Clarence Thomas

Justices Dissenting



Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

26 May 1998


Philip Lewis' substantive due process rights under the U.S. Constitution were not violated during the high-speed police chase; such governmental action gives rise to liability only if the police officer acts in a way that "shocks the conscience" and violates "the decencies of civilized conduct."


The Lewis holding established that a police officer, sued under the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution over a high-speed chase, will not be held responsible for injury or death resulting from the chase unless the officer's conduct is shocking to the conscience. This rule necessarily applies only in federal court. For claims related to high-speed police chases that are based on state law, states are free to devise their own standard of liability.

Related Cases

  • Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327 (1986).
  • Zinernon v. Burch, 494 U.S. 113 (1990).
  • Washington v. Glucksberg, 512 U.S. 702 (1997).

Additional topics

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