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The Court requested full merits briefing on April 25, 2014. The Court issued an opinion resolving the case on February 6, 2015. It then denied rehearing on March 13, 2015 File Closed
Per Curiam OpinionView Electronic Briefs | Oral Argument N/A | Video N/A PDF
|Appellate District:||4th Court of Appeals|
|COA Docket No.:||04-13-00082-CV|
|Opinion Author:||Honorable Catherine Stone|
|Trial Court:||166th District Court|
|Trial Judge:||Honorable Barbara H. Nellermoe|
|This case was waiting for a possible rehearing motion between March 13, 2015 and May 18, 2015.|
|2015-03-13||Motion for Rehearing - Disposed||Denied|
|2015-02-19||Motion for Rehearing|
|2015-02-19||Case forwarded to Court|
|2015-02-06||Petition for Review disposed||Petition granted pursuant to TRAP 59.1|
|2015-02-06||Opinion issued||Court of Appeals' judgment reversed; cause remanded to trial court|
|2015-02-06||Petition for Review granted under TRAP 59.1|
|2015-02-06||Court approved judgment sent to attorneys of record||Issued|
|2014-12-30||Notice from Counsel of a change in address|
|This case was pending on merits briefs between July 1, 2014 and December 30, 2014.|
|2014-07-01||Reply Brief (Petitioner)|
|2014-06-09||Brief on the Merits (Respondent)|
|2014-05-27||Brief on the Merits (Petitioner)|
|2014-05-02||Case Record Filed|
|2014-04-28||Record Requested in Petition for Review|
|2014-04-25||Brief on the Merits Requested|
|2014-04-07||Exhibits in case/cause filed (Petitioner)|
|2014-03-19||Reply to Response (Petitioner)|
|2014-03-10||Response to Petition (Respondent)|
|2014-02-07||Supreme Court of Texas Requested Response|
|2014-01-08||Phone call from Clerk's Office|
|2014-01-07||Case forwarded to Court|
|2013-12-06||Petition for Review (Petitioner)|
|2013-12-06||Motion for Extension of Time to File Petition for Review disposed||Filing granted|
|2013-12-06||Motion for Extension of Time to File Petition for Review filed|
|Ryder Integrated Logistics, Inc.||
|Fayette County, Texas||
The plaintiff contends that a car accident was caused by the headlights of a police car, which was at the time being moved and was facing oncoming traffic. The County invoked sovereign immunity. The question on appeal is whether this situation withs within the “use of property” exception in the Texas Tort Claims Act.
The Supreme Court held that it does fit the exception and, thus, that a waiver of sovereign immunity had been pleaded. The key fact turned out to be that, in this case, the police car was being operated (“relocat[ed]”) at the time of the accident.
The County argued that an accident caused by headlights alone could not fit within the waiver, citing a Houston case from 2007 in which that court found immunity against an accident claimed to have been caused by a parked police car with its emergency lights activated. Texas DPS v. Grisham, 232 S.W.3d 822 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2007, no pet.). The driver in that case claimed the accident was caused by the fact that they had to change lanes to comply with state law. That court of appeals, however, held that the police car in question was not in “use” merely by virtue of being parked with its emergency lights on.
In this case, the Supreme Court was expressly careful not to either approve or disapprove the holding of Grisham. (“Although we express no opinion as to the substance of the Grisham panel’s analysis, we decline to follow its reasoning here.”). That may be a question for another day.
To decide this case, the Supreme Court chose merely to distinguish Grisham, noting that the police car here was unquestioningly being operated at the time. This was not a parked car, it was a car in motion.
The Court also rejected the County’s argument that the accident was caused by the “illegal conduct” of the driver, an illegality based on the Transportation Code requirement to change lanes or reduce speed when approaching a parked emergency vehicle. This car, it noted, was not parked. And the ultimate effect of such a finding would, the Court noted, be merely to reduce proportionate responsibility; there is not a general bar to suit based on “illegal conduct.”