14th Court of Appeals holds fact questions on “emergency” prevented granting of plea to the jurisdiction

City of Houston v Arellano, 14-21-00117-CV (Tex. App. — Houston [14th Dist], August 11, 2022).

This is a vehicle accident/emergency responder case where the 14th Court of Appeals held fact questions exist as to whether the driver was responding to an actual emergency.

Dang was a maintenance mechanic for the City. As part of his duties, he maintained and repaired HVAC systems in City buildings. On the evening of the traffic accident, Dang was at home on-call. At approximately 10 p.m., he received a service call to notify him that a fire station had no heat. After the call, he immediately clocked in for work remotely. He drove to another fire station, dropped off his personal vehicle, and picked up his City work vehicle. Then, he began driving to the fire station that lacked heat. On the way, he collided with Arellano. Arellano filed suit against the City for personal injury. The City filed a motion for summary judgment which was denied. The City appealed.

When an employee is driving a vehicle owned by the employer, the employee is under a presumption to be acting within the course and scope of their employment. When it is unrelated, the presumption prevails. The court first held the City failed to adequately refute the presumption. So, Dang was legally acting within the course and scope of his employment. The court next analyzed whether Dang was responding to an “emergency”. After analyzing the facts in the record, the court determined a fact issue existed. As a result, it was proper to deny the motion.

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