City established immunity due to emergency exception doctrine in police vehicle accident case

City of San Antonio v. Britnee Amber Reyes and Stephanie Aguirre, 04-16-00748-CV (Tex.App. – San Antonio, August 23, 2017).

This is a Texas Tort Claims Act vehicle accident case where the San Antonio Court of Appeals held the City was immune.

San Antonio Police Officer Ayars was in an automobile accident with the Plaintiffs’ vehicle while responding to a “City-wide Emergency Tone that an officer needed assistance.” Officer Ayars proceeded through an intersection while in route resulting in the collision. Plaintiffs sued the City under the Texas Tort Claims Act for damages. The City filed a plea to the jurisdiction which was denied. The City appealed.

Under the emergency exception doctrine, the City retains its immunity from suit on a claim arising from the action of an employee while responding to an emergency call. Nonetheless an employee responding to such emergency can still cause liability to attach if their actions are reckless. However, the Plaintiffs did not provide counter evidence to the City’s plea and Ayer’s affidavit. The undisputed evidence establishes Officer Ayers was responding to an emergency. When he approached the intersection, he slowed, observed the situation, and proceeded through. Assuming, as Plaintiffs allege, the light facing Officer Ayers was red, he was authorized to proceed through the intersection in an emergency situation. Plaintiffs presented no evidence the actions were reckless. The Plaintiffs make an alternative argument that the City waived the “emergency exception” defense because it waited 11 months before raising it. However, no support exists for the position. Plaintiffs did not request additional discovery or continuances. The City retains immunity and the plea should have been granted.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. Justice Angelini, Justice Martinez and  Justice Rios. Memorandum Opinion by Justice Rios. The attorney  listed for the Appellee is Jaay D. Neal. The attorneys listed for the City are Michael David Siemer and Elizabeth Provencio.