Supreme Court agrees driver, not traffic light caused PA wreck

By Steve Korris | Nov 27, 2007

Texas Supreme Court

AUSTIN – Yolanda Guidry, whose daughter and unborn grandchild died in a Port Arthur car crash, must give up trying to prove that the traffic lights beamed as green for her daughter as for the driver who hit her.

The Texas Supreme Court on Nov. 16 denied Guidry's petition to review a decision of the Ninth District Court of Appeals in Beaumont, in favor of the Texas Department of Transportation.

The Ninth District held that, "No report of a green conflict is shown to have been corroborated at any time by any independent investigator or by any objective test."

Guidry's pregnant daughter, Tempist Bazile, died Dec. 7, 2003, at the intersection of the Highway 69 service road and FM 365.

Guidry argued that the light malfunctioned and was green on both sides. According to Port Arthur police, Bazile ran a red light.

Guidry nevertheless sued in Jefferson County district court, calling the crossing "unsafe, unreasonably dangerous and not properly maintained."

She alleged that TxDOT knew of dangerous conditions and failed to use ordinary care to protect Bazile from unreasonable risk of harm.

The department filed a plea and invoked sovereign immunity, a rule of law protecting the state from lawsuits for money damages.

Guidry answered that state law specifically waives sovereign immunity for premises defects.

The department denied any defect, claiming a monitor would have sensed a conflict and would have switched all lights to flashing red.

In September 2006, District Judge James Mehaffy denied the department's plea.

For TxDOT, Ronald Garner and Susan Desmarais Bonnen of the Texas Attorney General's Office appealed to the Ninth District.

Stephen Estes of Houston and Richard Clarkson of Beaumont represented Guidry.

Justices Charles Kreger, Hollis Horton and David Gaultney reversed Mehaffy.

Kreger wrote, "We have carefully examined all of the jurisdictional evidence submitted by both parties and find nothing to indicate any malfunction or other defective condition or placement of the traffic light at the time of the collision…"

He labeled a report from Guidry's expert, James Gartrell, as speculation and conjecture. He found no dangerous condition triggering a duty to make repairs.

Neither did the Supreme Court.

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