Articles Posted in Government Liability

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Earlier this year, the Supreme Court of Texas issued a written opinion in a case involving a fatal Texas pedestrian accident, requiring the court to discuss the damages cap provision of the Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA). Specifically, the court had to determine if the damages cap provision applies individually or cumulatively in cases involving several independent contractors. Ultimately, the court concluded that, when a contractor is performing an essential government function, the damages cap applies cumulatively to all defendants.

Bus AisleThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the surviving daughter of a woman who was struck and killed by a public bus in Fort Worth. The bus was driven by a man who was employed by a company that was an independent contractor that provided drivers for Fort Worth’s public transportation system.

The plaintiff brought a Texas personal injury claim against several parties, including the driver, the driver’s employer, and the Fort Worth Transportation Authority (FWTA). The FWTA is a regional transportation authority that provides for all of the public transportation needs of the city. The plaintiff claimed that each of the organizational defendants was vicariously liable for the driver’s negligence.

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Injury claims against Texas government entities can be complicated, since many agencies are protected by governmental immunity, precluding recovery in some situations. However, there are certain exceptions that can allow plaintiffs to successfully file a claim against a government entity.

GunpointIn a recent case before the Texas Supreme Court, a plaintiff brought a Texas personal injury claim against Harris County after she was shot by an off-duty officer in a road rage incident. The County argued that it was protected by governmental immunity, but the plaintiff argued that the claim fell under an exception because the officer was using a personal firearm. She alleged that the County’s use of tangible personal property caused her injuries. She argued the County’s use of tangible personal property was the County’s decision to hire the officer and to allow him to possess the gun as a firearm.

Governmental Immunity

Under Texas state law, governmental immunity protects political subdivisions of the state from legal liability. This includes counties, cities, and school districts. However, the Texas Tort Claims Act waives immunity for certain claims that would normally fall under the general grant of governmental immunity.

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When someone is injured due to the allegedly negligent act of a government employee or entity, they may be entitled to compensation for their injuries through a Texas personal injury lawsuit. However, as a general rule, government entities are not liable for injuries caused by their negligent actions related to carrying out government business. In some specific situations, however, government immunity is waived. This is normally through statutorily defined exceptions contained in the Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA).

Legal News GavelIn order for an accident victim to pursue a valid claim against a government entity, the victim must comply with the procedural requirements set forth in the TTCA. One of the major requirements of the TTCA is the notice requirement. As a general rule, notice must be provided to the agency that is being named as a defendant. However, in some cases, notice need not be provided if the agency has actual notice through other means.

Courts have held that a government can be said to have actual notice of a potential claim if the agency has subjective knowledge that there was an accident involving death or injury, the government agency’s fault contributed to the accident, and the government knows the identity of the parties. A recent case illustrates how courts strictly interpret this requirement, and how an accident victim’s failure to comply with the requirement may adversely affect their case.

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