Generally, a person who is hurt by another person’s negligence is entitled to recover money damages if he or she can prove that the defendant owed a duty of care, that the defendant breached the duty owed to the plaintiff, and that the plaintiff suffered damages as a legal and proximate result of that breach of duty.
However, when the allegedly negligent person was working for a governmental entity at the time of the accident, the matter is more complicated. This is because, in Texas, governmental units are immune from both suit and liability unless immunity has been waived.
One situation in which immunity is specifically not waived is when a governmental employee is responding to an emergency call in an authorized emergency vehicle, such as a police cruiser. Even then, there are sometimes exceptions to the general rule, but it is often difficult for a plaintiff to get past the presumption of immunity in a particular case.
Facts of the Case
In the recent case of Torres v. City of Corpus Christi, the plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by the alleged negligence of a police officer. At the time of the crash, the police officer was in pursuit of a fleeing stolen vehicle. The officer, who had his emergency lights and sirens activated, admitted that he was traveling faster than the posted speed limit when he lost traction while entering a curve, sliding his cruiser sideways and into the path of the plaintiff’s vehicle.
In her complaint, the plaintiff averred that the accident was caused by the officer’s negligence. Alternatively, she alleged that, if the officer was responding to an emergency, he violated certain sections of the Texas Transportation Code and the general rules manual of the police department that employed him. She also accused the officer of operating his vehicle with conscious indifference or reckless disregard for the safety of others.
The defendant city filed a plea to the jurisdiction of the court, claiming sovereign immunity based on the fact that the officer was responding to an emergency call and had his lights activated at the time of the collision. The trial court granted the defendant’s plea to the jurisdiction, and the plaintiff appealed.
Decision on Appeal
The Court of Appeals for the Thirteenth District of Texas affirmed the lower court’s ruling, holding that the evidence conclusively showed that the police officer was responding to an emergency call at the time of the accident. The court also found that the officer’s actions were in compliance with all applicable laws and ordinances and that the officer was not reckless. Thus, the court found that the defendant city was entitled to judgment because sovereign immunity applied.
To Get Advice About an East Texas Car Crash
If someone in your family has been affected by a car or truck accident, you need to talk to a lawyer about whether you have a case against the person, business, or governmental entity that caused the wreck. East Texas auto accident attorney Earl Drott has been handling car accident cases for 34 years, and he is here to help your family during this difficult time. For an appointment to discuss your Tyler, Smith County, or surrounding area motor vehicle collision case, call us today at (903) 531-9300.
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