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Holding a Texas City Accountable for a Car Accident

traffic-light-1490891In Adams v. City of Dallas, the appellate court considered a car accident allegedly caused by a malfunctioning traffic light. The two people involved in the accident were Clinton Adams and Adeba Ghebrekidan. The latter sued the former and the City of Dallas. Adams counterclaimed against Ghebrekidan and cross-claimed against the City 20 days later.

The City claimed it wasn’t provided with timely written notice of Adams’ lawsuit, and it didn’t have the actual notice required by the Texas Tort Claims Act. The lower court dismissed Adams’ claims against the City.

Adams appealed. The appellate court explained that if the City had sovereign immunity from suit, the lower court would not have subject matter jurisdiction over the case. All plaintiffs bringing lawsuits against governmental entities are required to provide notice to the relevant entity in order to bring a valid lawsuit. Under Texas Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 101.101, a governmental entity is entitled to notice of a claim within six months of the day of the accident described in the claim. However, under § 101.101(c), the notice requirement doesn’t apply if the governmental entity has actual notice of the claimant’s injuries.

The appellant argued that he gave notice and that the City had actual notice in any event. The City, however, responded by saying it got no written notice, as required by the TTCA and city laws. The Dallas City Charter and Dallas City Code mandate that claims against the City be filed with the office of risk management within six months of the accident. The City argued that, since the appellant didn’t comply with either the TTCA or the city laws, he had to show actual notice.

The appellate court noted that the record included a copy of a notification letter dated January 27th to the City, but there was no proof attached that the original was actually sent by January 28th as required. The TTCA requires the City to receive notice by January 28th. The date doesn’t refer to when a claimant sends his or her notice. The record didn’t show that the claim was filed with the office of risk management. The appellate court found there was no factual dispute about whether the City received notice because the claimant hadn’t provided any evidence to back up his claim that it did.

The appellate court also looked at the issue of actual notice. The City had participated in a deposition 18 months after the accident, a year after he filed his cross-claim. However, the City argued that any knowledge it got after the filing of the suit and after the six-month deadline didn’t satisfy the requirements of the TTCA. The appellate court explained that the City had to receive notice within six months of the accident, unless it already had actual notice. There was no evidence in the record that the City received actual notice of the injuries within six months of the accident.

The appellate court concluded that there was no factual issue about whether the City had actual notice and affirmed the lower court’s dismissal.

Holding a city or other governmental entity accountable for an accident in Texas requires plaintiffs to follow strict procedural requirements. If you’re hurt or a loved one is killed, and governmental negligence is involved, the experienced San Antonio personal injury attorneys at Carabin & Shaw may be able to help you. Call our office for more information at 1-800-862-1260.

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