Police report noting “evading police was contributing factor” in crash was sufficient to put City on actual notice of its fault says Fourth Court of Appeals

City of San Antonio v. Roxana Tonorio, et al. 04-15-00259-CV (Tex. App. – San Antonio, January 27, 2016).

This is a high-speed chase/Texas Tort Claims Act case, where the 4th Court of Appeals denied a plea to the jurisdiction holding a fact question exists as to actual notice.

San Antonio Police Department (SAPD) was involved in a high speed pursuit wherein the fleeing suspect entered a freeway going the wrong way. On entry onto the freeway, SAPD stopped pursuit, however, the suspect continued driving and struck Roxana and Pedro Tonorio. The Plaintiffs sued City which filed a Plea to the Jurisdiction asserting it failed to receive notice under the City’s charter. The trial court denied the plea and the City appealed.

The majority held the police investigative report determined that the pursuit by police was a contributing factor to the Tenorios injuries. As a result, there was evidence of a fact issue as to whether the SAPD was subjectively aware that it played a role in producing or contributing to the Plaintiffs’ injuries. The majority held the crash report need not indicate that SAPD acted unreasonably, but must only provide a “subjective signal” to the City “that there might be a claim, even if unfounded, at issue.”

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Pulliam noted that to raise a fact issue regarding a City’s subjective awareness of its potential fault the evidence must at least imply or provide some indication of fault. The dissent found because the police officers ceased pursuit of the fleeing suspect and because case law holds “pursuit alone is insufficient to place a City on actual notice” the trial court lacked jurisdiction.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. Panel: Chief Justice Marion, Justice Martinez and Justice Pulliam. Memorandum Opinion by Justice Martinez.  Justice Pulliam’s dissent is found here. The attorneys listed for the City are Michael David Siemer and Dan Pozza. The attorney listed for the Plaintiffs is Joe Brad Brock.

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