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Supreme Court of Texas Weighs in on Tort Claims Act Damages Caps

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.

The TTCA Damages Cap

As a general rule, governments are immune from tort liability. However, under the TTCA, the state waives this immunity in certain circumstances. For example, the government has waived its immunity in cases involving a motor vehicle, but only up to $100,000 per accident.

The defendants filed a motion asking the court to determine that they constituted a single entity under the TTCA, and therefore, the plaintiff would be limited to $100,000 total. The plaintiff argued that each of the defendants should be liable up to the damages cap because each performed a slightly different function.

The Court’s Decision

The court determined that the government defendants should all be considered a single entity, and thus the plaintiff would be limited to a total of $100,000 under the TTCA. The court limited its holding to situations in which the independent contractor is performing an essential government function.

Here, the court explained, the defendants were providing public transportation to the city of Fort Worth, which is an essential government function. As a result, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision to consider all of the defendants a single entity under the TTCA and limit the plaintiff’s total recovery amount to $100,000.

Have You Been Injured in a Texas Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Texas accident, and you believe that it was caused by the negligence of a government employee, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated Texas personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Carabin Shaw have extensive experience representing victims and their families in a wide range of personal injury cases, including claims against the government. To learn more, call 1-800-862-1260 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with a dedicated Dallas bus accident attorney.

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