The Texas Supreme Court recently issued an opinion in a Texas personal injury case involving the death of a 19-year-old pregnant woman who fell into a dam near Fort Worth. According to the court’s opinion, the woman tried to walk across the dam when she slipped and fell into the river and drowned. She was five months pregnant at the time. The woman’s parents sued the local water district, which built and maintained the dam, alleging that it was at fault for their daughter’s death. The water district, which is considered a governmental entity, claimed that it was immune from suit for that reason. The plaintiffs claimed that the district was not immune from suit because the claim fell under a specified waiver of immunity.
Governmental immunity generally protects political subdivisions of the state, including cities and counties. However, there are exceptions to the general rule of immunity. For example, the state is not immune for claims involving “use of publicly owned automobiles, premises defects, and injuries arising out of conditions or use of property.” Under section 101.056 of the Texas Tort Claims Act, there is an exception to waivers of immunity if the claim is based on:
(1) the failure of a governmental unit to perform an act that the unit is not required by law to perform; or
(2) a governmental unit’s decision not to perform an act, or on its failure to make a decision on the performance or nonperformance of an act if the law leaves the performance or nonperformance of the act to the discretion of the governmental unit.
The plaintiffs claimed there was a dangerous condition because of a scour hole and hydraulic boil at the dam, which caused previous incidents at the site. They claimed the dangers were not visible and that there were no adequate, noticeable warning signs. The court decided that the claim did not fall under a waiver of immunity, because it was based on the water district’s use of discretion.
The court explained that the Texas Water Code allows the water district to control its water “by any practical means,” giving the district significant discretion in how to do so. In addition, there are no federal regulations requiring a particular depth. The court noted that the water district exercised its discretion in deciding to grade the riverbed to a certain depth. Because the district had the discretion to design and maintain the dam for its intended purposes, and the district had the discretion to make policy decisions in building and maintaining the dam at a certain depth, the court found it was immune from suit under Section 101.056, and dismissed all claims against the water district.
Call a Texas Personal Injury Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been injured in a Texas slip-and-fall accident, call a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. At Carabin Shaw, we exclusively advocate for the rights of individuals injured or wrongfully killed in accidents. Our San Antonio personal injury lawyers have been fighting for victims’ rights for over 25 years and have more than 200 years of combined experience in Texas personal injury law. We handle all types of personal injury cases, including Texas car accidents, truck accidents, work accidents, and wrongful death cases. For a free consultation call 1-800-862-1260 or fill out our online form.