Tollway Authority immune from suit after motorist died from fallen light pole; Authority had only one minute notice of downed pole before collision

Azhar Zaidi, et al v North Texas Tollway Authority, 05-17-01056-CV (Tex. App. – Dallas, December 6, 2018)

This is a Texas Tort Claims Act/vehicle accident case where the Dallas Court of Appeals affirmed the granting of the Tollway Authority’s plea to the jurisdiction.

Zaidi’s son, Ammar,  collided with a downed light pole on the Tollway and died.  Another driver, Tolbert, struck the pole, causing it to fall into the center and outside northbound lanes of the roadway. Zaidi sued the Tollway Authority (NTTA) which filed a plea to the jurisdiction. The plea was granted and Zaidi appealed.

Zaidi first asserts the trial court improperly denied his request for a continuance. After analyzing the record, the court held Zaidi had sufficient time to conduct discovery and failed to seek depositions prior to the plea. Next, the court assumed, without deciding, that the pole was a special defect for purposes of the plea analysis. NTTA received a call about the pole being down approximately one minute before Ammar’s accident occurred.  “Considering the almost simultaneous creation of the special defect and Ammar’s collision, there is no evidence from which to create a fact issue as to whether NTTA should have been aware of the downed pole earlier or whether NTTA failed to use ordinary care to protect Ammar from colliding with the downed pole.” Further, NTTA had no actual knowledge the pole was a danger prior to Tolbert striking it. The pole was built to specifications and existed there since 1966. The most recent spot check of the pole (in 2015) indicated no maintenance problems or dangers with the pole. As a result, regardless of whether the pole was a special defect or premise defect, no evidence exists to establish a waiver of immunity. The order granting the plea was affirmed.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. Panel consists of Justice Lang-Miers, Justice Fillmore and Justice Myers. Memorandum Opinion by Justice Myers.

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