First Court of Appeals finds County not liable in police chase case

   The First Court of Appeals has affirmed a summary judgment in favor of Harris County in a case in which the plaintiffs sued Harris County, claiming a deputy constable improperly engaged in a police chase that ended when the deputy’s car crashed into the car occupied by a mother and her two children. The Court concluded that the County conclusively established that the officer, who was driving a car, acted in good faith when, pursuant to policies established to promote the safety of law-enforcement officers, he took over a pursuit previously initiated by another law-enforcement officer on a motorcycle. The Court said that over the course of the pursuit which lasted about seven minutes, no subsequent developments altered the balance of need and risk factors sufficiently to require an end to the chase.  

   The Court said, Harris County Constable’s guidelines provide that a constable in a cruiser generally should take over any pursuit initiated by a law-enforcement officer on a motorcycle. The policy promotes the safety of motorcycle officers, for whom a pursuit is more dangerous as compared to officers driving cars. The officer properly determined that the fleeing driver posed a danger to the general public. While speeding, the fleeing driver forced several other drivers from the road during the pursuit. Though the deputy recognized that the pursuit itself posed some risk, he concluded that the fleeing driver posed a greater risk to the public.

The case is Martinez v Harris County. Assistant County Attorneys Steve Smith and Bruce Powers were the attorneys in charge of this case.