City of El Campo v. Rubio – Case Brief Summary (Texas)

In City of El Campo v. Rubio, 980 S.W.2d 943 (Tex.App.--Corpus Christi 1998, pet. dism'd w.o.j.), the plaintiff was injured when her van was struck by another vehicle. 980 S.W.2d at 944.

Although none of the drivers were governmental employees, a police officer had ordered the unlicensed plaintiff, after showing her how to work the van's gas and brake pedals, to drive it and follow him back to the station. Id.

In accordance with the officer's order, the plaintiff pulled onto the highway to follow him; she was hit immediately thereafter. Id.

The court, emphasizing that the plaintiff had little or no choice and no control over the situation because she was acting under the officer's direct orders and was fearful for her family's safety on the highway late at night, concluded that the police officer "used" or "operated" the van by controlling its movements. Id. at 946-47.

In sum, a police officer allegedly ordered an unlicensed passenger to operate a motor vehicle following the driver's arrest.

The passenger, in accordance with the officer's order, followed the patrol car onto the highway and was struck by another vehicle.

The court of appeals found that immunity was waived because the officer "used" or "operated" the vehicle by exercising control over it.