Law School Case Brief
Tex. DOT v. Jones - No. 03-02-00479-CV, 2003 Tex. App. LEXIS 4612 (Tex. App. May 30, 2003)
A governmental entity has actual notice of a party's claim if it has knowledge of: (1) a death, injury or property damage; (2) the agency's alleged fault, producing or contributing to the death, injury or property damage; and (3) the identity of the parties involved. Notice to the governmental entity that the incident occurs alone, will not establish actual notice of a claim under the Texas Tort Claims Act , Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. §§ 101.001-.109 (2003). Because the purpose of the actual notice requirement is to ensure a prompt reporting of claims to enable the governmental entity to investigate while facts are fresh and conditions remain substantially the same, the person possessed of the actual notice must have a duty to investigate the facts and report them to a person of sufficient authority. Whether a governmental entity has actual notice of a tort claim under the Act is a question of fact.
Appellees-plaintiffs injured parties sued appellee driver for personal injuries arising out of an automobile accident. The injured parties asserted third-party contribution actions against appellant-defendant Texas Department of Transportation. The Department asserted sovereign immunity and filed a plea to the jurisdiction. The 33rd Judicial District Court of Burnet County (Texas) denied the Department's plea to the jurisdiction, and the Department filed an interlocutory appeal.
In an action against a driver for personal injuries arising out of an automobile accident, where the injured plaintiffs asserted third-party contribution actions against the State Department of Transportation, but it was unclear whether the Department had actual notice of the parties' claims under the Texas Tort Claims Act, could the Department assert sovereign immunity and file a plea to the jurisdiction?
None of the parties gave the Department formal written notice of their claims under the Texas Tort Claims Act (Act), Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. §§ 101.001-.109(2003). The parties claimed that the Department had actual notice of the accident, as one police officer notified the Department that an accident with serious injuries occurred due to ice on the bridge and another police officer requested a sand truck. The Court of Appeals of Texas affirmed the denial of the plea to the jurisdiction, as: (1) the Department failed to negate jurisdiction and demonstrate an incurable defect in jurisdiction; and (2) the record was underdeveloped regarding the issue of whether the Department had actual notice of the parties' claims.
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