It is common knowledge that when a person causes harm, he or she may be held liable for any damages sustained by the injured party. There are certain exceptions to this rule, however, such as when the person that causes the harm is employed by the government. In such cases, the Tort Claims Act may preclude liability against the person as an individual. The implications of the Tort Claims Act was recently analyzed by the Supreme Court of Texas, in a case in which an individual was killed by an off duty police officer. If you suffered harm due to the negligent acts of a government employee, you should consult a knowledgeable Texas personal injury attorney to discuss your options for seeking damages.
Facts of the Case
It is reported that the defendant, who was employed as an officer with a Texas police department, worked as a courtesy patrol officer at an apartment complex. Upon arrival at the apartment complex one evening, he noticed an individual in a car allegedly engaged in a crime. The defendant approached the car and identified himself as a police officer and asked the individual to step out of the car. The individual ignored the defendant and started to drive away. The defendant drew his weapon and fired shots at the vehicle. One of the shots hit the individual, who ultimately died from his injuries.
It is alleged that the individual’s estate sued the defendant in state court, alleging he was an employee of the apartment complex, and in federal court, alleging he was acting under color of state law and accordance with his police training. Following discovery in the state case, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss based on the election of remedies provision of the Tort Claims Act. The trial court denied the motion and the defendant appealed.
Tort Claims Act
The election of remedies provision of the Texas Tort Claims Act states that if a suit is filed against a government employee based on conduct within his or her employment, and the lawsuit could have been brought against the government unit, the suit is considered to be against the employee in his or her official capacity. Thus, if the defendant files a motion to dismiss it must be granted unless the plaintiff amends the pleadings to name the government unit as a defendant.
The focus in cases seeking dismissal under the election of remedies provision is whether the defendant was doing his or her job and not the quality of his or her work performance. Thus, if a connection exists between a defendant’s job duties and the allegedly tortious conduct, the defendant was acting in the scope of his or her employment.
In the subject case, the court found that a connection existed between the defendant’s duties as a police officer and the alleged tort. Specifically, the court found that the defendant was exercising a statutory grant of authority to make a warrantless arrest for a crime he observed and that he only had such authority through his employment with the government. As such, the court reversed the trial court ruling and dismissed the defendant from the suit.
Meet with a Trusted Texas Personal Injury Attorney Today
Simply because someone works for the government does not mean they are immune from any liability for causing harm. If you were injured by a police officer or other government employee it is critical to meet with a trusted Texas personal injury attorney to discuss your options for seeking compensation for your harm. Rick Davis is a seasoned personal injury attorney who will fight vigorously on your behalf to help you recover any compensation you may be owed. You can reach Mr. Davis through the online form or at (979) 779-4357 to set up a confidential and free meeting.