Officer Who Caused Fatal Crash was Under the Influence of Drugs
The Bexar County Medical Examiner confirmed that a Nixon police officer was under the influence of a drug cocktail when he strayed across the double-yellow line and crashed head-on into an oncoming pickup truck. Now, the Nixon Police Department may be faced with a negligence lawsuit.
The wreck took place in April 2015, just west of Jourdanton on Highway 97. 51-year-old Officer Mike Villarreal, of San Antonio, was killed almost instantly. His passenger, an unnamed juvenile detainee, and the driver of the Ford F-150 were both seriously injured and airlifted to San Antonio University Hospital.
An autopsy revealed traces of methamphetamine and naproxen, a powerful over-the-counter painkiller, in his bloodstream. As no narcotics were recovered from the wreckage, investigators speculate that Officer Villarreal may have been under the influence for his entire shift.
In the wake of the crash, Nixon City Manager Jose Trevino drafted a random drug testing plan, which is currently awaiting HR approval.
Third Party Liability
In a hypothetical lawsuit against the City of Nixon, the injured plaintiffs, or their legal representatives, could choose from one of two theories.
Respondeat superior, or “let the master answer,” holds employers responsible for the negligent acts of their employees. Driving while under the influence of drugs, especially illegal drugs, certainly qualifies as a negligent act. To recover damages, the plaintiffs must prove that the tortfeasor (negligent person) was acting within the course and scope of employment when the accident took place.
Texas courts typically interpret this doctrine very broadly, as long as the employee was doing anything of benefit for the employer and did not steal a company car or take other such action.
The Legislature sharply limited negligent hiring in 2013, but the cause of action remains viable. Essentially, the plaintiff must prove that the employer either did not properly screen new employees or failed to properly supervise existing workers. This theory can be a bit more difficult to establish, but can be quite useful in those cases where respondeat superior is unavailable.
As a side note, the theoretical plaintiffs could sue Nixon under the Texas Tort Claims Act.
The negligent driver may not be the only person responsible for your injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced New Braunfels personal injury attorney, contact our office. An attorney can arrange for injured victims to see a doctor, even if they have no money and no insurance.