City of Sugarland v. Ballard – Case Brief Summary (Texas)

In City of Sugarland v. Ballard, 174 S.W.3d 259, 262 (Tex. App.--Houston 1st Dist. 2005, no pet.), the Court considered a wrongful death case in which the plaintiffs alleged that the police failed to properly secure the decedent in a patrol car.

The decedent escaped the car on foot and died in an auto-pedestrian accident with an oncoming car. Id. The Court held the death did not arise from the car's operation. Id. at 266.

The Court reasoned that the cause of the death was the decedent's "decision to flee into freeway traffic." Id.

The failure to secure the decedent merely furnished the condition that made it possible for him to escape. Id.

In City of Sugarland v. Ballard, police officers had arrested Mark Ballard and were transporting him in a patrol car when he escaped from the car and was killed shortly thereafter when hit by another car. Id. at 263.

The court held that Ballard's death was not caused by the use of the patrol car:

"The actual cause of Mark's death was his deliberate decision to flee into freeway traffic and a separate car's hitting him there; the failure to secure Mark in the first place merely furnished the condition that made it possible for him to escape and then run into oncoming traffic." Id. at 266.

Ballard thus shows that a person's deliberate decision to flee from police can undercut the claim that resulting injuries are "caused" by the police.