Chambers v. City of Lancaster

In Chambers v. City of Lancaster, 843 S.W.2d 143 (Tex. App.--Dallas 1992), rev'd, 883 S.W.2d 650 (Tex. 1994), the plaintiffs' son was severely injured during a high-speed police chase, and the parents sued the police officers for negligence. Id. at 652. The officers moved for summary judgment based on an assertion of official immunity. Id. The court of appeals held that the officers did not have discretion "to drive without due regard for the safety of all persons using the highway." The Texas Supreme Court disagreed with the appellate court's analysis and held that the focus should have been on whether the police officers were performing a discretionary function (when they allegedly acted wrongfully), not on whether they had discretion to do an allegedly wrongful act while discharging that function. Chambers, 883 S.W.2d at 653. The Texas Supreme Court described the officer's conduct broadly. Instead of asking whether the officers had discretion to driving unsafely, as the appellate court had done, the Court considered whether "engaging in a high-speed chase" was a discretionary act and held that it was. See id. at 653-55. The Court explained that the appellate court's use of a more specific description linked to the alleged wrong "frustrates official immunity's very function" because it "inexorably leads to the at times incorrect conclusion that an officer is not entitled to immunity if the officer is negligent." Id. at 655.