Dallas Court of Appeals holdd officer did not establish official immunity because of fact question exists as to whether a reasonable officer would look both ways before entering an intersection


City of Dallas v. Matthew A. Lamb, 05-16-01506-CV (Tex. App. – Dallas, December 4, 2017).

This is an interlocutory appeal from the denial of the City’s plea to the jurisdiction in a police auto-accident case. The Dallas Court of Appeals affirmed the denial.

Dallas police officer Valerie Womack was assigned to a major accident emergency call and was enroot. At a specific intersection, Womack did not see any vehicles posing a danger but recognized some danger exists when entering an intersection where “…visibility can be somewhat obscured by a building.” Lamb’s vehicle “appeared suddenly in the intersection” and collided with Womack.  The City asserted Womack was entitled to official immunity, therefore granting the City immunity. The trial court denied the plea and the City appealed.

The trial court focused on the “good faith” element of official immunity, holding a prudent officer “might well have been concerned” about the obstruction. The trial court held on the record “the video convince[d the trial court] even more that [Womack] stopped at the stop sign, then she proceeded. But she obviously couldn’t have looked both ways and proceeded because there’s no reaction from her until the impact. If she had slammed brakes because she saw him, something like that. But it appears from the video that she just wasn’t looking that way at all.” Based on the evidence in the record, the Dallas Court of Appeals held a fact issue exists as to “…whether a reasonably prudent officer, under the same or similar circumstances, could have believed that the need to immediately respond to a Code 1, no lights no siren, call outweighed a clear risk of harm to the public in continuing, without looking for oncoming traffic, through an intersection where her visibility was obscured.”  The plea was properly denied.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. Panel consists of Justice Bridges, Justice Fillmore and
Justice Stoddart. Memorandum Opinion by Justice Bridges. The attorney listed for Plaintiff Lamb is Roberto Alvarez.  The attorneys listed for the City are James B. Pinson, Jennifer Carter Huggard, and Barbara E. Rosenberg.

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