In Texas, governmental immunity protects municipalities and other political subdivisions of the State from civil liability unless they have waived their immunity to suit. Governmental immunity often extends to employees of municipalities as well. In cases in which a party asserts they are protected from liability via governmental immunity, the courts will weigh several factors to determine whether the assertion is true, as illustrated in Rivera v. City of Houston No. 01-19-00629-CV, a case arising out of a collision involving a police vehicle. If you were injured in a crash with a municipal employee, you could be owed damages, and you should contact a Texas car accident lawyer to discuss your rights.
The Facts of the Case
It is reported that a police officer that worked for the defendant municipality was driving outside of her regular patrol area to pick up her partner when she heard an announcement of an emergency call regarding a suspect with a weapon. Although she was not assigned to the call, she decided to respond to it after going to the station to pick up her partner and engaged her emergency equipment.
As the police officer approached an intersection, she slowed down but did not stop. She was typing a message to the dispatcher, and she entered the intersection and did not observe whether the light was red or green. She subsequently struck the plaintiff’s vehicle.
Allegedly, it was later determined that the officer had a red light and the plaintiff had a green light at the time of the accident. The plaintiff sustained injuries in the collision and filed a lawsuit against the defendant. The defendant moved for summary judgment on the grounds that it had governmental immunity. The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.
Governmental Immunity from Liability for Car Accidents
On appeal, the appellate court reversed the trial court ruling on the grounds that there was a genuine factual dispute as to whether governmental immunity applied. The court explained that when a government unit asserts the defense of governmental immunity in a motion for summary judgment, it must establish the defense as a matter of law.
If the government entity meets this burden, the evidentiary burden shifts to the nonmoving party, who must demonstrate that there is an issue of fact on at least one element of the government unit’s defense or that there is an exception to the defense. In the subject case, the appellate court found that the defendant failed to establish that the police officer was performing a discretionary act in good faith at the time of the accident, as required to show that governmental immunity applied. As such, it reversed the trial court ruling.
Speak to an Experienced Texas Attorney
In lawsuits arising out of car accidents, defendants will try to seek information to reduce their liability, but only relevant information must be produced. If you were hurt in a collision caused by another driver, it is in your best interest to confer with an attorney to discuss what damages you may be owed. Earl Drott is a trusted Texas attorney with the skills and experience needed to obtain favorable outcomes in car crash cases, and if you hire him, he will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach Mr. Drott via the online form or at 903-531-9300 to set up a free meeting.