On Christmas eve of 2011, a Houston car accident left Maria Christina Gomez injured, and she has been seeking justice ever since. Though the facts of the accident are fairly straightforward, with Ms. Gomez’ car having been struck by another that skidded on a rainy road, the issue has been significantly complicated by the fact that the car that hit her was a police car being driven by a Houston police officer. This week an appellate court ruled that her case is strong enough that it can overcome the immunity defense being mounted by the city.
The decision about the Houston car accident was not unanimous: three of the nine judges of the Fourteenth Court of Appeals disagreed, arguing that there was no evidence that Officer Bobby Joe Simmons had acted recklessly or violated police department policy in a way that would waive the established protections available to government first responders. But the majority felt that the dispute as to whether the officer had his emergency lights on at the time of the crash was significant enough for immunity to be waived.
Houston Car Accident Precipitated by Call Regarding Robbery
The night of the Houston car accident was rainy, and Officer Simmons had been responding to a second-level priority call about an armed robbery. The police department protocol called for a “silent approach” without sirens, and it is unclear as to whether or not he was traveling with his emergency lights on. At the time of his crash, he was adjusting his radio and failed to stop for a changing signal, then slid into the intersection and struck Ms. Gomez’s vehicle. He was found to be at fault and received a reprimand from the department, but Gomez has thus far been stymied in her efforts to be compensated for her injuries.