[email protected], Jr., Chelsie King Garza and Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner undertook the representation of Eluid Cesar Hinojosa, a Sergeant with the Harris County Constable’s Office, when he challenged a decision of the Texas Department of Insurance – Workers Compensation Division regarding compensability of benefits in Harris County District Court. The injured worker was victorious at trial, was again victorious when the Texas 1st Court of Appeals affirmed the trial Court’s decision, and now celebrates the Texas Supreme Court’s decision not to review the Appellate Court’s ruling.
At the heart of this case is the peace officer’s duty status at the time of the motorcycle wreck. Sergeant Hinojosa was “on duty” at the time of his wreck, which carried with it the responsibilities of a Sergeant with the Harris County Constable’s Office. Sergeant Hinojosa was “signed on” as the on call Sergeant and was en route to a call for assistance from a subordinate officer at the time of his injury. His employer attempted to cease future compensation to its now disabled veteran employee by alleging that he was not “on duty” at the time of his motorcycle wreck.
Harris County raised two interrelated issues on appeal. Whether the evidence presented at trial supported Judgment in favor of Hinojosa and whether or not the evidence presented at trial was factually sufficient to show that Hinojosa was in the course and scope of his employment and therefore to support such Judgment. The 1st Court of Appeals found that there was sufficient evidence to support the Judgment and to find that Sergeant Hinojosa was in the course and scope of his employment when he accepted a call to assist a fellow officer.
This decision from the 1st Court of Appeals is a victory for Sergeant Hinojosa and a monumental victory for all peace officers in the State of Texas. This decision further clarifies what it means to be “on duty” for police officers across the State. Mr. Agosto, Ms. Garza and Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner are immensely proud of this decision and their opportunity to help Sergeant Hinojosa.