In most east Texas car accident cases, the fact that one party ran a red light and caused a collision is fairly convincing evidence that the defendant was negligent and should be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. After all, the duty to stop at a red light is one of the basic rules of the road.
However, there are a few, very limited circumstances in which this factual scenario might not play out in the plaintiff’s favor. An example of a possible exception to the general rule might be when the allegedly negligent motorist was a public employee who was on the job at the time of the wreck – if certain conditions were present.
Of course, the simple fact that the defendant was a public employee does not in and of itself end the inquiry into whether the plaintiff will prevail in his or her negligence lawsuit. There are multiple factors that must be taken into consideration in determining whether the defendant is entitled to certain immunity protections under the facts presented.
Facts of the Case
The plaintiff in a recent appellate court case was a woman who filed suit in the 284th District Court, Montgomery County, Texas, against the state public safety department, seeking compensation for injuries that she allegedly sustained in an accident that she believed was caused by the negligence of a state trooper. According to the plaintiff, the accident happened when the trooper ran a red light. In an affidavit filed by the trooper, he admitted that he proceeded through the light even though it was red but insisted that he did so with his lights and siren activated, used his airhorn, and “came to a near stop” to clear the intersection; he further averred that he was on his way to a “priority one call” at the time of the accident.
The department filed a plea to the jurisdiction. The trial court denied the department’s plea, and it appealed.
Decision of the Court
On appeal, the department argued that it was immune from suit given the facts of the case; in the department’s view, the trooper was entitled to official immunity because he was engaged in a discretionary duty, was acting in good faith, and was within the scope of his authority in responding to an emergency when the crash occurred. By extension, if the officer was entitled to official immunity, the department argued that it could not be held vicariously liable for the trooper’s allegedly tortious acts under the principles of sovereign immunity.
The Court of Appeals for the Ninth District of Texas at Beaumont reversed the trial court’s order denying the department’s plea to the jurisdiction and rendered a judgment that the plaintiff take nothing on her claims. The court so held because, under the Texas Tort Claims Act’s emergency exception, the department’s immunity was intact under the circumstances. In so holding, the reviewing tribunal noted that there was no evidence that the trooper had acted recklessly while responding to the emergency call. Rather, he had used all of the safety devises that he had at his disposal and had complied with the laws that applied to the situation.
Speak to Counsel About an East Texas Car Accident
Attorney Earl Drott has been serving injured people in east Texas for more than three decades. To schedule an appointment to discuss your case and see how we can help you in your pursuit of fair compensation for what you have been through in a car accident, truck wreck, or motorcycle collision, call Earl Drott Law at 903-531-9300 or use the contact form on this website. There’s no charge for the consultation, and most cases are accepted on a contingency fee contract. That means no upfront payment of legal fees or other expenses; we get paid when your case is settled or a judgment is entered in your favor by the court.