City of Beaumont immune from auto collision suit, Ninth Court rules

By David Yates | Nov 8, 2012

A Beaumont judge erred by not granting the city of Beaumont governmental immunity from an automobile collision lawsuit, the Ninth Court of Appeals recently opined.

As previously reported, Beaumont resident Danny Stewart filed a suit against the city he resides in on July 13, 2011, in Jefferson County District Court, alleging the city is responsible for an employee’s automobile collision.

Court records show the city responded by filing a plea to the jurisdiction, arguing that it was immune from the suit and the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction.

Nonetheless, Judge Bob Wortham, 58th District Court, concluded that the city employee was within the course and scope of her employment at the time of the incident.

The city appealed the ruling on July 17, arguing that the employee was paid by the hour, and on her lunch break and off the clock at the time of the incident.

Justices on the Ninth Court agreed, issuing an opinion reversing Judge Wortham’s ruling on Nov. 1, court records show.

“Stewart’s claim against the City is barred by the doctrine of governmental immunity,” Justice Charles Kreger wrote in the court’s opinion. “We reverse the order of the trial court denying the City’s plea to the jurisdiction and dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction.”

Case background

According to the lawsuit, on Oct. 15, 2009, Stewart was traveling north in the right lane of Magnolia Street in Beaumont when a city employee turned into his lane and struck his vehicle.

The suit alleged the employee negligently failed to keep a proper lookout and made an improper lane change.

The suit also accused the city of negligently hiring the employee.

Stewart was suing for his alleged past and future medical expenses, mental anguish, pain, impairment, disfigurement and lost wages, plus all court costs.

Beaumont attorney Ryan White of Loncar & Associates represents him.

Senior Assistant City Attorney Quentin Price represents the city of Beaumont

Case No. A190-497

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