NEWEST ADDITION TO HECHT COURT'S IMMUNITY JURIS(MAL)PRUDENCE:
DRUNK DRIVER IMMUNITY
Here is yet another example of the Texas Supreme Court's penchant for creating and invoking immunity theories to deny plaintiffs their day in court against a party that caused injury, and thereby preventing a trial on the merits and recovery of damages from the tortfeasor proven to have committed the tort. There will be no trial and no opportunity to hold the driver accountable. Molina v Alvarado (Tex. 2015).
Attorney for collision victim should have sued the driver first, rather than the employer-city under the Tort Claims Act. Amending the petition later won't do.
The El Paso Court of Appeals had denied the immunity argument of the city employee (who also invoked the Fifth to avoid self-incrimination), and had this to say:
We seriously doubt that the Texas Legislature intended to extend immunity to city employees driving vehicles under the influence of alcohol. Whether the employee is actually acting within the scope of employment — in which case the employee is sued in his official capacity and serves merely as a jurisdictional stand-in for the agency — is a question of fact for the trial court to decide. As such, whether Molina was actually driving the City of McCamey vehicle within the scope of his employment or under the influence of alcohol are both questions of material fact that prevent a grant of summary judgment.
But the Supreme Court reversed, and granted the driver absolution. Defendant wins, as usual. Case closed.
OPINION OF THE SUPREME COURT
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF TEXAS
════════════ NO. 14-0536 ════════════
JESUS RUBEN MOLINA, PETITIONER, v. ELIAS ALVARADO, RESPONDENT ═══════════════════════════════════════════
ON PETITION FOR REVIEW FROM THE COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE EIGHTH DISTRICT OF TEXAS
Governmental employee Jesus Molina contends the trial court incorrectly denied his summary-judgment motion under the Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA)’s election-of-remedies provision. We agree that Molina was immune from suit.
We reverse the court of appeals and render judgment for Molina.
Because Alvarado did not do so, he essentially chose his defendant before being required to do so by the election-of-remedies provision. That choice is still an irrevocable election under section 101.106, and the TTCA bars him from later filing suit against Molina. Accordingly, we grant Molina’s petition for review and, without hearing oral argument, reverse the judgment of the court of appeals and render judgment for Molina. See TEX. R. APP. P. 59.1.
OPINION DELIVERED: May 8, 2015.
OPINION OF THE EL PASO COURT OF APPEALS