City’s affidavit failed to show how a reasonable ambulance driver would have acted similarly, so plea was properly denied

 

City of Dallas v Duressa, 05-17-01238-CV (Tex. App. — Dallas, June 13, 2018)

This is a Texas Tort Claims Act (“TTCA”)/ambulance accident case where the Dallas Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of the City’s plea to the jurisdiction.

Duressa was involved in a car accident and Dallas dispatched an ambulance driven by Officer Wyatt. In transporting Duressa  to the hospital she was stable so the lights and siren were not activated. Duressa’s son rode with her in the ambulance. The roadway was icy and the ambulance slid and collided with stopped cars at an intersection. Duressa sued under the TCAA. The City filed a plea to the jurisdiction asserting Wyatt was performing discretionary actions, entitled to official immunity, and therefore the City is immune. The trial court denied the plea and the City appealed.

Courts apply an objective standard to determine whether an officer has acted in good faith, balancing the need for the officer’s actions with the risks those actions pose. In an emergency response situation, an officer acts in good faith if a reasonably prudent officer under the same or similar circumstances could have believed the need for the officer’s actions outweighed a clear risk of harm to the public from his actions. There must be evidence addressing “what a reasonable officer could have believed under the circumstances” substantiated with facts showing the officer assessed each of the need/risk balancing factors. The needs and risk analysis, however, demonstrated the lights and sirens were not active and there was no immediate need for a rush. The affidavits do not set out facts explaining the seriousness of the accident, the extent of any injuries, or any other circumstances requiring urgent transport of the patient to the hospital. Similarly, the affidavits do not state facts showing Wyatt considered the availability of any possible alternative courses of action, but simply conclude that, because the officers had been dispatched through the 9-1-1 system and were expected to respond urgently to the scene. Because a material fact issue remains as to whether Wyatt acted in good faith the trial court properly denied the plea.

If you want to read this opinion click here. The panel consists of Justices Lang, Brown, and Whitehill.  Opinion by Justice Brown. The attorney listed Duress is Patrick Rosario Watson. The attorneys listed for the City are James B. Pinson, Jennifer Carter Huggard, Bonnie Snell, Julie B. Essenburg, Barbara E. Rosenberg, and Molly Parks Ward