Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Fayette County v. Ryder Integrated Logistics, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

April 5, 2017

FAYETTE COUNTY, Appellant
v.
RYDER INTEGRATED LOGISTICS, INC. and Ryder Integrated Logistics of Texas, LLC, Appellees

         From the 166th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2010-CI-03779 Honorable Peter A. Sakai, Judge Presiding

         AFFIRMED

          Karen Angelini, Justice Rebeca C. Martinez, Justice Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Karen Angelini, Justice

         This is 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.

         Background

         This 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 these events.

         After 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).

         On 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.

         The trial court denied Fayette County's summary judgment motion. Fayette County appealed.

         Summary Judgment and Official Immunity

         In 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).

         A 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).

         Generally, 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 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.