Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio
the 166th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial
Court No. 2010-CI-03779 Honorable Peter A. Sakai, Judge
Angelini, Justice Rebeca C. Martinez, Justice Luz Elena D.
an interlocutory appeal from an order denying Fayette
County's motion for summary judgment based on the
affirmative defense of official immunity. See Tex.
Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 51.014(5) (West Supp.
2016). Because Fayette County failed to satisfy its summary
judgment burden to conclusively prove the good faith element
of official immunity, we affirm the trial court's order.
case involves the fatal collision of two eighteen-wheeled
commercial trucks on IH-10 in Fayette County, Texas. At
around 3:00 a.m. on July 17, 2009, Fayette County
Sheriff's Deputy, Randy Thumann, was traveling eastbound
on IH-10 when he noticed an eighteen-wheeled truck driving
ahead of him with an unlit clearance light. Thumann decided
to stop the truck for the infraction and activated the
emergency lights on the patrol car. The driver of the truck,
Ralph Molina, responded by maneuvering the truck completely
onto the paved shoulder of the road. Thumann then positioned
his patrol car behind Molina's truck, which began rolling
backwards toward the patrol car. To avoid being hit by
Molina's truck, Thumann reversed the patrol car for a few
seconds; however, Thumann soon pulled the patrol car forward
to the right of Molina's truck onto a grassy area
alongside the paved shoulder. While in the grassy area,
Thumann drove past Molina's truck, made a u-turn, and
positioned the patrol car so it was facing westbound in the
direction of oncoming traffic. Seconds later, a Ryder
Integrated Logistics, Inc. and Ryder Integrated Logistics,
LLC truck that was traveling eastbound on IH-10 clipped the
rear left side of Molina's truck. The Ryder truck
overturned and caught fire. The driver of the Ryder truck,
Roberto Solis Sr., did not survive the fire. The patrol car
was equipped with a dashboard video camera that recorded
being sued by Molina, Ryder filed a third-party petition
against Fayette County. Ryder alleged that Solis was blinded
by the patrol car's headlights or spotlight causing him
to clip the rear of Molina's truck. Fayette County filed
a plea to the jurisdiction based on governmental immunity,
which the trial court granted. Ryder appealed the order
granting the plea to the jurisdiction to this court. We
affirmed the trial court's order granting the plea to the
jurisdiction; however, the Texas Supreme Court reversed our
judgment and remanded the case to the trial court for further
proceedings. Ryder Integrated Logistics, Inc., v. Fayette
Cnty., 414 S.W.3d 864 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2013),
rev'd, 453 S.W.3d 922 (Tex. 2015).
remand, Fayette County moved for summary judgment based on
the affirmative defense of derived official immunity. In its
summary judgment motion, Fayette County argued it was
entitled to derived official immunity because at all times
Thumann was (1) acting in the performance of his
discretionary duties; (2) acting within the course and scope
of his authority; and (3) acting in good faith. Ryder filed a
response, arguing that Fayette County was not entitled to
summary judgment based on derived official immunity. Ryder
maintained that Fayette County failed to conclusively prove
that Thumann acted in good faith. Ryder further maintained
that even if Fayette County did conclusively prove that
Thumann acted in good faith, no reasonable officer could have
thought that the circumstances surrounding the stop of
Molina's truck justified Thumann's actions.
trial court denied Fayette County's summary judgment
motion. Fayette County appealed.
Judgment and Official Immunity
reviewing a trial court's ruling on a traditional summary
judgment motion, we indulge every reasonable inference in
favor of the nonmovant, take all evidence favorable to the
nonmovant as true, and resolve any doubts in favor of the
nonmovant. Valence Operating Co. v. Dorsett, 164
S.W.3d 656, 661 (Tex. 2005).
governmental employee is entitled to official immunity if he
is: (1) performing a discretionary duty; (2) within the scope
of his authority; and (3) acting in good faith. Univ. of
Houston v. Clark, 38 S.W.3d 578, 580 (Tex. 2000). When
official immunity shields a governmental employee from
liability, sovereign immunity shields the governmental
employer from vicarious liability. Texas Dep't of
Pub. Safety v. Bonilla, 481 S.W.3d 640, 642 (Tex. 2015).
To obtain summary judgment on the affirmative defense of
official immunity, the burden is on the defendant to
conclusively prove each element of the defense.
Clark, 38 S.W.3d at 580; City of Lancaster v.
Chambers, 883 S.W.2d 650, 653 (Tex. 1994).
to determine whether a public official acted in good faith,
courts examine whether a reasonably prudent public official,
under the same or similar circumstances, could have believed
that his conduct was justified based on the information he
possessed when the conduct occurred. Ballantyne v.
Champion Builders, Inc., 144 S.W.3d 417, 426 (Tex.
2004). In situations involving high-speed chases or emergency
response driving by law enforcement, courts employ a
particularized need/risk analysis when evaluating good faith.
Green v. Alford, 274 S.W.3d 5, 15 (Tex. App.-Houston
[14th Dist.] 2008, pet. denied). This particularized
need/risk analysis was "crafted in an attempt to ...