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City of Dallas v. Sanchez

Supreme Court of Texas

July 1, 2016, Opinion Delivered

NO. 15-0094

Opinion

 [*724]  PER CURIAM

Hours before Matthew Sanchez died from a drug overdose, a 9-1-1 operator dispatched an ambulance to his apartment complex. Once on scene, however, emergency personnel provided assistance to a different drug-overdose victim at the same complex and then left the premises without aiding Sanchez, erroneously concluding that two closely timed 9-1-1 calls concerning overdose victims at the same locale were redundant. In a wrongful-death suit against the City of Dallas, Sanchez's parents allege the 9-1-1 telephone system malfunctioned and disconnected Sanchez's call before the responders could establish the overdose reports were not duplicative.

The issue in this Rule 91a dismissal proceeding is whether the Texas Tort Claims Act waives the City's [**2]  immunity from suit based on allegations in the wrongful-death suit that a condition of the City's telephone system proximately caused Sanchez's death by preventing him from receiving potentially life-saving medical care. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 101.021(2) (providing a limited waiver of governmental immunity arising from the "condition or use" of tangible personal property); Tex. R. Civ. P. 91a (authorizing dismissal of a cause of action that has no basis in law or fact). We hold governmental immunity is not waived and dismissal is required because the requisite causal nexus between the alleged condition and Sanchez's injury is lacking. See Dallas County v. Posey, 290 S.W.3d 869, 872 (Tex. 2009) (the alleged condition must actually have caused the injury to invoke the Tort Claims Act's immunity waiver; mere involvement of property is not sufficient). We therefore reverse the court of appeals' judgment and render judgment dismissing the case.

] Dismissal is appropriate under Rule 91a "if the allegations, taken as true, together with inferences reasonably drawn from them, do not entitle the claimant to the relief sought . . . [or] no reasonable person could believe the facts pleaded." Tex. R. Civ. P. 91a.1. Whether the dismissal standard is satisfied depends "solely on the pleading of the cause of action." Tex. R. Civ. P. 91a.6. ] We review [**3]  the merits of a Rule 91a motion de novo because the availability of a remedy under the facts alleged is a question of law and the rule's factual-plausibility standard is akin to a legal-sufficiency review. See Wooley v. Schaffer, 447 S.W.3d 71, 75-76 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2014, pet. denied); cf. Marsh USA Inc. v. Cook, 354 S.W.3d 764, 768 (Tex. 2011) (application of the law to undisputed facts is reviewed de novo); City of Keller v. Wilson, 168 S.W.3d 802, 827 (Tex. 2005) ("[L]egal-sufficiency review in the proper light must credit favorable evidence if reasonable jurors could, and disregard contrary evidence unless reasonable jurors could not.").

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494 S.W.3d 722 *; 2016 Tex. LEXIS 615 **; 59 Tex. Sup. J. 1540

CITY OF DALLAS, PETITIONER, v. DIANE SANCHEZ, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF MATTHEW SANCHEZ, DECEASED, AND ARNOLD SANCHEZ, RESPONDENTS

Prior History:  [**1] ON PETITION FOR REVIEW FROM THE COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH DISTRICT OF TEXAS.

City of Dallas v. Sanchez, 449 S.W.3d 645, 2014 Tex. App. LEXIS 11755 (Tex. App. Dallas, 2014)

CORE TERMS

proximate, malfunction, dispatcher, phone, disconnected, telephone, overdose, waived

Governments, Local Governments, Claims By & Against, Torts, Liability, State Tort Claims Acts, Construction & Interpretation, Civil Procedure, Defenses, Demurrers & Objections, Motions to Dismiss, Failure to State Claim, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Appellate Jurisdiction, State Court Review, Elements, Causation, Proximate Cause, Public Entity Liability, Immunities, Qualified Immunity, Causation in Fact, Proximate Cause, Foreseeability of Harm