At common law, the doctrine of sovereign immunity served to protect the king from suit. After all, it was reasoned, “the king could do no wrong.”
Unfortunately for those injured by modern-day governments, the doctrine of sovereign immunity is still alive and well in the United States, even though our country has not been under the ostensible power of a king for centuries.
Of course, there are some limitations to the doctrine and many instances in which the government can be held liable. If the parties cannot agree on the issue, it is up to the courts to decide cases in which the doctrine could potentially apply on a case-by-case basis.
Facts of the Case
In the recent case of Lara v. City of Hempstead, the plaintiff was a woman who was injured in a car accident. According to the complaint filed by the plaintiff in Harris County, Texas, the accident occurred when the plaintiff’s car collided with a vehicle being operated by the assistant chief of police of the defendant city. Both the plaintiff and her unborn child were injured in the wreck. The assistant chief, who was commuting from his home to his job with the defendant when the accident occurred, was given a written warning for his alleged failure to yield the right of way, and the defendant later issued a written reprimand to him concerning the incident.
The defendant filed a plea to the jurisdiction of the trial court, asserting that it was entitled to governmental immunity. The plaintiff replied that there were factual issues that needed to be determined before the defendant could show itself to be entitled to the relief sought. The trial court disagreed and granted the defendant’s plea to the jurisdiction.
The Decision of the Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas
The appellate court affirmed, agreeing with the trial court that the plaintiff had failed to overcome the presumption of governmental immunity. In so holding, the court noted that the assistant chief was driving a “take-home” vehicle at the time of the accident and that there was no evidence presented by the plaintiff tending to show that he was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the crash.
It should be noted that the plaintiff did not name the assistant chief as a defendant in the case. Had she done so, the outcome could possibly have been different, at least as to his personal liability.
Call an Experienced East Texas Car Accident Attorney
Each car wreck case is unique, with its own set of issues and challenges. Having a knowledgeable, hard-working attorney by your side can help your case tremendously. To schedule an appointment with a board-certified east Texas car accident lawyer with over 34 years of experience, call the Law Offices of Earl Drott, PC, for a free initial consultation. You can reach us at (903) 531-9300. We serve clients in Tyler, Smith County, and throughout east Texas.
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