CLOSEClose Law.com Menu
 
X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Jose and Gloria Trevino filed suit against the city of San Antonio for personal injuries and property damage arising out of an automobile accident in which their Ford F150 pickup truck was hit by a Dodge Neon being driven by Richard Sanchez. San Antonio Police Officer Tony J. Arcuri testified that just before the accident, he was traveling northbound on a street in a residential area. There was no traffic at all in the area. However, Arcuri saw a Dodge Neon parked southbound in front of the house known for drug and stolen vehicle trafficking. He followed the Neon and observed it speeding and perhaps running a stop sign. Although he did not turn on his vehicle’s lights or siren, he had decided to try to catch up to the Neon and possibly stop it. When Arcuri reached the intersection of North San Ignacio and Rivas, all Arcuri could see were the Neon’s taillights as it turned into an S-curve on Rivas. Arcuri continued his pursuit and later saw the Neon run the stop sign at Rivas and Rosabell and hit the Trevinos’ truck, which had the right-of-way as it traveled northbound on Rosabell. At the point of impact, Arcuri was exceeding the speed limit. Before he reported the accident or helped the accident victims, he pursued the fleeing people and caught Richard Sanchez in the backyard of a house. According to Arcuri’s accident report, the accident was caused by Sanchez’s disregard of the stop sign, exceeding the speed limit and fleeing or evading the police. The city’s expert, Police Commander Albert Rodriguez, testified globally and in detail that Arcuri’s actions were objectively reasonable and conducted in good faith. The Trevinos’ expert, Joe Montgomery, testified that he had no opinion on whether Arcuri acted in good faith except that he failed to use “the means available to him to warn the public of what was going on.” In response to the Trevinos’ petition, the city answered and filed a plea to the jurisdiction or, alternatively, traditional and no-evidence motions for summary judgment on several grounds, including that its summary judgment evidence conclusively established Arcuri’s official immunity and therefore the city’s governmental immunity. The trial court denied the city’s plea to the jurisdiction and its motions for summary judgment. The city appealed the trial court’s order denying its plea to the jurisdiction and its traditional and no-evidence motions for summary judgment. On appeal, the Trevinos alleged that because the accident was the result of a high-speed chase of Sanchez by one of the city’s employees, the city’s immunity from suit was waived by �101.021(1) of the Texas Tort Claims Act. Sovereign immunity shields the governmental employer from vicarious liability if official immunity shields a governmental employee from liability. Under a three-prong test, government employees are entitled to official immunity: 1. for the performance of discretionary duties; 2. within the scope of the employee’s authority; 3. provided the employee acts in good faith. The Trevinos conceded the first and second elements of official immunity and disputed only the third good faith. HOLDING:The judgment was reversed and rendered, dismissing the cause for lack of jurisdiction. To establish good faith in a police-pursuit case, the court stated, an officer must conclusively prove that a reasonably prudent officer in the same or similar circumstances could agree that the need to immediately apprehend the suspect outweighed the risk of harm to the public in continuing the pursuit, taking into account all the need and risk factors. The need and risk factors were summarized in University of Houston v. Clark, 38 S.W.3d 578 (Tex. 2000), as follows: “The need element refers to the”urgency of the circumstances requiring police intervention,’ or”the seriousness of the crime or accident to which the officer responds, whether the officer’s immediate presence is necessary to prevent injury or loss of life or to apprehend a suspect, and what alternative courses of action, if any, are available to achieve a comparable result.’ The risk element of good faith refers to”the countervailing public safety concerns,’ or”the nature and severity of harm that the officer’s actions could cause (including injuries to bystanders as well as the possibility that an accident would prevent the officer from reaching the scene of the emergency), the likelihood that any harm would occur, and whether any risk of harm would be clear to a reasonably prudent officer.” To controvert a police officer’s summary judgment proof on good faith, the court stated, a respondent must do more than show that a reasonably prudent officer could have decided to stop the pursuit. The respondent must show that no reasonable person in the officer’s position could have thought that the facts justified the officer’s acts, the court stated. Although Montgomery testified in a conclusory fashion that Arcuri failed to exercise due care for citizens and failed to warn the public, the court stated that he did not substantiate his conclusions with reference to each aspect of the need and risk balancing test. In addition, the court noted his testimony that he had no opinion on whether Arcuri acted in good faith. Because the city’s summary judgment evidence conclusively established that Arcuri acted in good faith and the Trevinos’ summary judgment evidence did not controvert the city’s evidence on that point, the court held that the city established its governmental immunity from suit. OPINION:Duncan, J.; L�pez, C.J.; and Duncan and Speedlin, J.J.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 3 articles* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.