Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg
appeal from the 370th District Court of Hidalgo County,
Chief Justice Valdez and Justices Rodriguez and Benavides
ROGELIO VALDEZ Chief Justice
City of Pharr (the "City"), appeals from the trial
court's denial of its plea to the jurisdiction.
Appellees, Dora Herrera, Individually and as Representative
of the Estate of Reynaldo Herrera, deceased, Eric Herrera,
Efren Herrera, Michael Herrera, Jessica Herrera Rodriguez,
Celia Herrera, Vanessa Herrera, Veronica Herrera Rodriguez
Herrera, and Rey Herrera, sued the City under the Texas Tort
Claims Act for negligence in causing the death of Reynaldo
Herrera. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann.
§ 101.021(1)(A) (West, Westlaw through 2015 R.S.). By
two issues, the City contends that the trial court erred in
denying its plea to the jurisdiction because appellee did not
present a cause of action that overcomes the general rules of
government immunity and because Officer Gonzalez would be
entitled to official immunity for carrying out his law
enforcement duties in good faith. We reverse and render.
26, 2010, the City's police officer, Emilio Gonzalez,
attempted to conduct a traffic stop of a Ford Expedition for
a violation of the Texas Transportation Code. The Expedition,
which was driven by Rafael Carro Quintero, failed to stop,
and Officer Gonzalez pursued the vehicle into the city of
Alamo, Texas. Officers from the Hidalgo County Sheriff's
Office and Department of Public Safety (DPS) joined the
pursuit of the Expedition, which traveled at a high rate of
speed. Sometime thereafter, Officer Gonzalez disengaged the
pursuit at the intersection of Tower and Trenton Roads, but
he did not advise the other agencies to disengage pursuit.
While two officers with the Hidalgo County Sheriff's
Office were pursuing the Expedition on a dirt road, the
Expedition hit Reynaldo Herrera's vehicle. Herrera passed
away as a result of his injuries.
filed suit against the City for initiating the chase. The
trial court denied the City's plea to the jurisdiction.
This appeal followed.
Standard of Review and Applicable Law
review a plea to the jurisdiction under a de novo standard of
review. Westbrook v. Penley, 231 S.W.3d
389, 394 (Tex. 2007). A plea to the jurisdiction seeks to
dismiss a case for want of jurisdiction. Tex. Dep't
of Parks & Wildlife v. Miranda, 133 S.W.3d 217,
226-27 (Tex. 2004).
A plea to the jurisdiction is a dilatory plea, the purpose of
which is to defeat a cause of action without regard to
whether the claims asserted have merit. The claims may form
the context in which a dilatory plea is raised, but the plea
should be decided without delving into the merits of the
case. The purpose of a dilatory plea is not to force the
plaintiffs to preview their case on the merits but to
establish a reason why the merits of the plaintiffs'
claims should never be reached.
Bland Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Blue, 34 S.W.3d 547, 554
(Tex. 2000) (internal citations omitted).
governmental entities have absolute immunity from suit unless
immunity has been expressly waived by the Legislature.
Miranda, 133 S.W.3d at 224. Immunity deprives a
trial court of subject matter jurisdiction. Id. The
TTCA provides a limited waiver of sovereign immunity in
certain situations. See generally Tex. Civ. Prac.
& Rem. Code Ann. § 101.021(1)(A) (West, Westlaw
through 2015 R.S.). The TTCA waives immunity, and a
governmental unit is liable for a death proximately caused by
the wrongful act or omission or the negligence of an employee
acting within his scope of employment if, the death arose
from the operation or use of a motor-driven vehicle and
"the employee would be personally liable to the claimant
according to Texas law." Id.; City of Dall.
v. Hillis, 308 S.W.3d 526, 532 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2010,