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Have you ever contemplated the difference between a motor vehicle and a piece of motor-driven equipment? Probably not. Most people have more important things to think about. But when the mechanical bull falls off its platform and lands on its erstwhile rider on the grounds of a Texas governmental entity the distinction becomes important. If this happened on city property and the bull was being supervised by a city employee, the city might be liable for the man’s injuries. But if it happened at a school district, and the bull was supervised by a school employee, the district is immune from liability.
Why? Because the Texas Tort Claims Act makes cities liable for injuries caused by the negligent use or operation of “a motor-driven vehicle or motor driven equipment.” School districts, however, are only liable for the negligent use or operation of a “motor vehicle.”
You can ride that mechanical bull, but it won’t take you anywhere. That means that it’s not a vehicle. Thus Mr. Hernandez, the injured party, failed to make it to first base in his lawsuit against San Benito CISD. The court held that it did not even have jurisdiction to hear the case due to the district’s immunity from tort liability.
Congratulation to Priscilla de la Garza from our firm’s Rio Grande Valley office on her victory in this case, her first at the appellate level. The case of Hernandez v. San Benito CISD was decided by the Court of Appeals for the 13th District of Texas in Corpus Christi-Edinburg on September 24, 2020. Priscilla will be on our Zoom call this morning to tell us more about what happened.
DAWG BONE: MECHANICAL BULLS SHOULD BE EQUIPPED WITH A BREATHALYZER SO WE CAN BE SURE THAT NO ONE RIDES WHO ISN’T ALREADY WASTED.