Fourth Court says TTCA suit against San Antonio can go forward

City of San Antonio v Rodriguez, No. 04-13-00116-CV (Tex. App. – San Antonio, August 30, 2013).

This is a Texas Tort Claims Act case arising from an automobile accident with a police vehicle. The trial court denied the City’s plea to the jurisdiction and the City appealed. The San Antonio Court of Appeals affirmed the denial.

Rodriguez was a passenger in a car which collided with a city police vehicle. However, it was not until after the initial collision that the driver turned her steering wheel sharply causing it to crash into a retaining wall. The retaining wall impact killed the driver and seriously injured Rodriguez. Along with suing the City, Rodriguez sued the Chrysler Group alleging design defects. The claims against Chrysler were later nonsuited.

The City asserts the vehicle collision was minor and there was no evidence of which vehicle struck the other. Essentially, that the bump between the two vehicles is unrelated to the retaining wall impact which caused the injuries. The Fourth Court of Appeals noted that a “plethora” of evidence existed which is intertwined with jurisdictional facts and heavily in dispute. The court noted the equal inference rule (it’s just as likely one thing happened than another so no preponderance exists) probably does not apply when ruling on a plea to the jurisdiction since that rule is typical in no-evidence summary judgments. However, even if they were to apply it, the court holds circumstantial evidence of disputes is permissible to establish jurisdiction. The City’s expert evidence indicates the bump between the vehicles was likely the fault of Rodriguez’ vehicle who more than likely panicked and overcorrected. However, the record is devoid of any reason why Rodriguez’ vehicle would have swerved so soon after the collision (doesn’t sound like conflicting evidence to me, but evidence vs. a lack of evidence on a particular point, but I didn’t see the record so OK 4th Ct). A reasonable inference is the collision caused the overcorrection. Additionally, since Rodriguez was not successful in her suit against Chrysler (which was a claim against a product not protecting her as opposed to causing the collision with the wall), she is not judicially estopped from asserting negligence by the City. The trial court properly denied the plea.

If you would like to read this opinion click here.