In February 2018, a woman from Portland, OR was struck and killed by a MetroRail train on East Fifth Street in Austin. At the time, her grieving family did not bring suit against anyone over her passing because MetroRail and its associated entities promised progress on making the area safer, as well as increasing passenger safety outreach. However, the family recently announced that they have not seen sufficient progress on either promise, and are thus bringing suit against Capital Metro, the City of Austin, Austin Energy, and other associated entities. If you have been injured, or lost a loved one, due to a train accident, suing can be quite difficult, and it remains to be seen if this family will prevail.
Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (CapMetro) is considered a public entity, and as such, one of the first questions that a potential plaintiff has to ask if they want to bring suit against a public entity is whether they will be able to. Texas has a doctrine called sovereign immunity, which holds that the ‘sovereign’ (that is, the government and its agencies) is generally immune from suit by an individual. However, like many other jurisdictions, Texas has waived this in part, allowing suits from individual plaintiffs in certain specific situations.
WIth regard to the suit brought by the family, one can read the relevant law and hold that their suit may meet sovereign immunity standards. Texas law states that a governmental entity can be sued over someone’s injury or death that was caused by the “wrongful act or negligence” of an employee if it arises from the use of a “motor-driven vehicle,” and if the entity would be liable to the plaintiff if they were an individual. At least with the information currently available, the family’s suit would appear to meet these criteria....