By Kelline R. Linton,
On Friday, the Texas Supreme Court held that an independent contractor is not entitled to sovereign immunity when exercising independent discretion in performing government functions.
In Brown & Gay Engineering, Inc., No. 13-0605, a drunk driver entered the Westpark Tollway the wrong way on an exit ramp, which caused a head-on collision and death. The victim’s mother brought a wrongful death suit against Brown & Gay Engineering, the company that contracted with Fort Bend County Toll Road Authority to design the road signs and traffic layout for the toll road. The engineering company argued it was protected by governmental immunity as an employee of a governmental entity.
The Supreme Court disagreed. The Court decided not to extend immunity when the third-party contractor was given discretion in performing the government’s work.
What does this mean? Independent contractors that work with Texas governmental agencies may not be entitled to governmental immunity based on the level of control that the government exerts over the contractor’s actions. When facing a lawsuit during the performance of government work, we recommend that you call us to evaluate whether you are protected and entitled to a dismissal of the suit.