Night Out at Texas Piano Bar Leads to Liability Claims Against City After DUI Crash

A night out on the town can turn tragic in just a few seconds’ time. When someone is hurt in an east Texas drunk driving accident, the driver is the most obvious defendant if a lawsuit is to be filed by the person who was hurt (or, after a fatal accident, the family of the person who died in the crash). Sometimes, however, there are other potential defendants.

Of course, naming another person, a business, or a governmental entity in a drunk driving lawsuit and actually recovering a money judgment are two different things. Such claims are very fact-specific and must be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Facts of the Case

In a recent appellate case (No.02-17-00040-CV; Court of Appeals for the Second District of Texas at Fort Worth), the plaintiff was a man who was injured in a car accident that occurred in 2014. At the time, the man was riding as a passenger in his friend’s car; the two had been consuming alcoholic beverages at a piano bar earlier in the evening. The accident happened when the friend, who was allegedly traveling at a high rate of speed, ran a red light and struck a vehicle that was proceeding through the intersection.

The plaintiff filed suit against the defendant city, alleging that it failed to provide adequate police protection to prevent the accident. The trial court granted the city’s plea to the jurisdiction of the court, thereby dismissing the plaintiff’s claims against the city.

Decision of the Court of Appeals

The appellate court affirmed, agreeing with the defendant city that the Texas Tort Claims Act had not waived immunity for claims such as those proffered by the plaintiff. According to the court, the Act did address a municipality’s provision of police protection, but such claims were specifically excluded under the Act. Since the plaintiff’s claim was essentially that the officer was negligent when he failed to provide police protection by failing to use his flashers and by failing to regulate traffic, the Act did not waive immunity for such a claim, and thus the trial court did not err in granting the city’s plea to the jurisdiction on that basis.

(You may be wondering why the injured man did not name his friend, the drunk driver, as a defendant in his lawsuit. He did sue his friend in a separate lawsuit, along with the piano bar and several of its employees who allegedly overserved the two after they were obviously intoxicated. The outcome of that case is not known, but it is possible that the claim against the friend settled for the policy limits or that the friend was uninsured and otherwise “judgment proof” (no assets to collect or no regular source of income from which to collect), perhaps explaining the somewhat unusual theory of liability advanced in the current case).

Do You Have an East Texas Car Accident Case?

If you have been injured by a negligent or reckless driver and are wondering what you need to do in order to hold the responsible parties legally liable for your injuries, experienced east Texas auto accident attorney Earl Drott in Tyler can help. For a free, no-obligation case review, call us at 903-531-9300 today. Do not delay in contacting an attorney about your case, since claims not filed within the statute of limitations are usually dismissed regardless of the merits of the case.

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