In City of Houston v. Roman, No. 01-15-01042-CV, 2016 WL (Tex. App. – Houston [1st Dist.] July 12, 2016, no writ)(mem. op.), plaintiff, on behalf of his minor signed, sued the City of Houston for negligence, alleging a police dog attacked and injured his minor son. The city filed a motion to dismiss, which the trial court denied. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision.
The plaintiff’s version of the facts
The plaintiff alleges his son and a friend were walking to a nearby park to play soccer. As they walked down a back street, a police car approached, an officer got out of the passenger side door, and started running toward the boys. Another officer exited the driver side door, walked to the back of the car, opened a door and let a dog out. When the minors saw the dog running toward them, they fled, jumped a fence, and hid in a backyard. The minor plaintiff alleges he hid behind a trashcan, waited, heard a gate open, and then a police dog attacked him.
The police officers’ version of the facts
According to the city, two officers were patrolling their area when they observed two youths trying to enter a backyard. They commanded the youths to stop; the youths ignored orders, and ran. The officers radioed for assistance and chased the youths through a series of backyards. Other officers arrived and the police established a perimeter and requested a canine unit. The canine unit arrived and the dog tracked the youths over a fence and down a street until the dog stopped at a gate. When the officer opened the gate, the dog ran to a trashcan and jumped against it, knocking it over. The minor plaintiff fell out of the trashcan and the dog bit his forearm.
Setting aside the immunity issues, the court held that the plaintiff’s petition alleged a claim for the negligent use of the police dog, for which the Texas Tort Claims Act waves immunity.