Woman to File Suit After Incident with Mounted Patrolman
A woman who was run over by a mounted police officer while at a George Floyd protest told reporters she intends to file a lawsuit against the City of Houston. Twenty-year-old Melissa Sanchez was attending a protest on May 29 and carrying a sign that said: “Pro-Black Doesn’t Mean Anti-White”.
A bystander’s video captured the incident. Sanchez was facing the opposite direction holding her sign at chest level when she was struck behind by the mounted officer. The horse appeared to surge forward knocking Sanchez to the ground. It’s not clear why the horse lurched forward from the video.
After the video circulated on social media, Mayor Sylvester Turner tweeted an apology for the incident before Sanchez’s name was even known.
Was it an Accident?
Any Texan can file a lawsuit against the State of Texas or any of its subsidiaries in county and city governments. However, the law protects the taxpayer coffers in a number of different ways, and one of the ways it protects tax funds is by limiting the types of personal injury claims that can be filed against government employees. The laws are strictest when it comes to police and firefighters.
In fact, it’s nearly impossible to hold a police officer accountable for injuries they cause if their actions were in relation to their duty as police officers. So whether or not this incident is actionable will depend entirely on whether or not the police officer’s actions could be interpreted as accidental.
The police are saying that the incident was an accident. The mounted officer was responding to something else that was happening and the horse just plowed into Melissa Sanchez. If that’s the case, no lawsuit is possible.
Sovereign Immunity and Negligence Actions
The bar for filing a personal injury lawsuit against a law enforcement officer is high. The plaintiff must show that the act was either intentional, grossly negligent, or otherwise extraneous to their duties as law enforcement.
For an injury claim to assert gross negligence, the plaintiff must show that there was a callous indifference to the rights or safety of others. Firing into a crowd is an example of gross negligence.
It’s a very high bar to overcome and one that doesn’t seem likely to be overcome given the facts surrounding this incident. However, we don’t have all the information regarding the incident and investigation may reveal that the officer knew Sanchez was there when he ran her over.
Further, it would be impossible under qualified immunity to sue the officer directly. Qualified immunity is one of the many protections that officers enjoy that are now under fire after several police brutality incidents.
Talk to a Houston Personal Injury Attorney
If you’ve been injured due to the negligence of another person, call the Houston personal injury attorneys at Livingston & Flowers today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help.