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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:A police pursuit began when San Antonio police spotted a suspect in a stolen Suburban shortly after an aggravated robbery and car jacking were reported at a convenience store. The police pursuit, which lasted less than 20 minutes, included a helicopter and five police cars, one of which was damaged when the suspect rammed it with the stolen Suburban. Near the end of the pursuit, a police sergeant directed the police officers to back off. The sergeant testified in his deposition that he gave this order to make the suspect believe he had evaded the officers. Shortly thereafter, the suspect lost control of the Suburban, crashed into a parked car and injured Dolores Ytuarte, a bystander. Ytuarte filed suit, and the city responded by asserting immunity and moving for summary judgment. The city’s summary judgment evidence included the officers’ deposition testimony and an expert’s report, all of which addressed the need to apprehend the suspect and the perceived risks to the public during the police pursuit. Ytuarte’s summary judgment evidence included her expert’s deposition and affidavit and the affidavit of a 12-year-old witness, who disagreed with the police about when the police cars made it to the accident scene. The trial court denied the city’s motion, and the 4th Court of Appeals affirmed, concluding that the city had not established the officers’ good faith as a matter of law. The 4th Court held that there was a material dispute concerning whether any police officer remained in hot pursuit of the suspect when the accident occurred. The police officers uniformly testified that they turned off their lights and sirens and “backed off” the pursuit as the sergeant ordered. They returned to the pursuit, however, when the officer in the helicopter reported the suspect’s accident. This testimony suggested that several seconds elapsed before the first police car reached the accident scene. Ytuarte’s witness to the accident, however, testified that she saw police cars with their lights on but heard no sirens. She further testified that she saw the police cars turn onto the street immediately after the accident, indicating perhaps that the officers had not disengaged from their pursuit. The city’s expert disregarded this evidence and concluded that no police car was in pursuit of the suspect when the accident occurred. Noting that summary judgment evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, the 4th Court viewed this factual dispute as support for the trial court’s decision to deny the city’s motion for summary judgment. HOLDING:Reversed and rendered. The good faith inquiry, the court stated, must weigh the need to immediately apprehend the suspect against the risk of continuing the pursuit from the perspective of a reasonably prudent officer. Good faith, the court stated, depends on how a reasonably prudent officer could have assessed both the need to which an officer responds and the risks of the officer’s course of action based on the officer’s perception of the facts at the time of the event. The court stated that, rather than look for evidence of each officer’s reasonable perception of need and risk during the pursuit, the 4th Court focused on whether the officers were in pursuit when the accident occurred. But the court stated that the relevant test is not whether the officers assessed the needs and risks differently but whether no reasonable prudent officer could have assessed the need and risks as the police officers did in this case. The test, the court stated, then is one of “objective legal reasonableness” and the immunity protects “all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law.” Applying this rule, the court found that the officers’ affidavits and depositions revealed that each officer weighed the need to apprehend the suspect immediately and the risk of harm the pursuit posed to the public if they continued the pursuit. Each officer’s testimony, the court stated, sufficiently addressed both the need and risk factors and revealed that a reasonable officer, under the same or similar circumstances, could have balanced need and risk as the officers did. In addition, in analyzing the plaintiff’s expert witness, the court found that the testimony of Ytuarte’s expert was insufficient, because he only testified on the risk portion but not the need factor of the objective legal reasonableness test. OPINION:Per curiam.

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