Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio
the 57th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial
Court No. 2011-CI-17823 Honorable Antonia Arteaga, Judge
Sitting: Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice, Luz Elena D. Chapa,
Justice Irene Rios, Justice
Elena D. Chapa, Justice
Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) appeals the
judgment in favor of Larry Little, rendered after a jury
trial on Little's suit for breach of contract. LVEDC
argues it is immune from suit and from liability. It also
argues the evidence is legally and factually insufficient to
support the jury's findings there was a contract, breach,
and damages. Having previously held LVEDC is not immune from
suit in this case, we now hold that it is immune from
liability, and we therefore reverse the judgment and render
judgment that Little take nothing.
is a Type B economic development corporation created by the
City of Leon Valley in 2009 pursuant to the Development
Corporation Act of 1979 (the Act). See Tex. Loc.
Gov't Code Ann. §§ 501.001 - 507.202 (West 2015
& Supp. 2016). LVEDC was created to promote economic
growth and development in the City of Leon Valley through the
development of projects authorized by the Act and funded by
4B sales and use tax proceeds and bonds.
recommendations made in a study prepared by the American
Institute of Architects, the City of Leon Valley and LVEDC
began considering the development of a "Town
Center" to attract and retain business in the city.
LVEDC started discussions with Larry Little, a local
commercial real estate developer who owned some undeveloped
property in a suitable area. A plan emerged to develop a Town
Center project on approximately eight acres of land. In 2010,
LVEDC and the Leon Valley city council, by two resolutions,
approved a project plan for Little to develop the property,
which would consist of three buildings with a total of 100,
000 square feet of primarily tax-generating retail space.
LVEDC would acquire three pieces of property, at a cost of
$850, 000. It would contribute the properties to the project
and retain a $500, 000 interest in one of the buildings.
LVEDC's commitment to the project would be financed by a
Texas Leverage Fund loan from the Governor's Office of
Economic Development & Tourism, and the loan would be
repaid with 4B sales and use tax receipts. Little would own
and finance the rest of the project and be the developer.
and Little engaged in negotiations over the terms of a
Development Agreement, and LVEDC applied for the Texas
Leverage Fund loan. In June 2011, the Governor's Office
of Economic Development & Tourism issued a commitment to
fund the $850, 000 loan, provided it was approved by LVEDC
and the City of Leon Valley. However, the Development
Agreement was never finalized and signed, the City refused to
approve the loan, and the Town Center project fell through.
filed this suit for breach of contract against LVEDC. In an
earlier interlocutory appeal, this court held the trial court
had subject matter jurisdiction over the case because LVEDC
was not immune from the breach of contract suit. City of
Leon Valley Econ. Dev. Corp. v. Little, 422 S.W.3d 37,
45 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2013, no pet.) (Little I).
On remand, the case was tried to a jury, and the trial court
denied LVEDC's motion for a directed verdict that was
based on immunity from liability. Little contends that he and
LVEDC reached enforceable oral agreements that LVEDC would
acquire and give him the three parcels of property (four
acres), that he would develop and own the entire project, and
that LVEDC's obligations under the agreements were not
contingent on either LVEDC obtaining financing or the signing
of a Development Agreement. He contends LVEDC breached its
agreements by failing to give him the land needed to develop
the project. The jury found that Little and LVEDC
"intend[ed] to be bound by agreements relating to the
Larry Little-Leon Valley Town Center project without the
execution of a written agreement" and that LVEDC
"fail[ed] to comply with the agreement." The trial
court rendered judgment on the jury's verdict, which
awarded Little the value of the land LVEDC "agreed to
give" Little for the project, over $100, 000 for
expenditures Little made in performance of the agreements,
and over $1, 400, 000 in lost past and future profits. LVEDC
timely appealed the judgment, arguing it is immune from suit
and liability and that the evidence is legally and factually
insufficient to support the jury's findings.
- Immunity From Suit
first issue, LVEDC argues the trial court lacked subject
matter jurisdiction over this case because LVEDC is immune
from the suit. We addressed this issue in a previous
interlocutory appeal from the trial court's denial of
LVEDC's plea to the jurisdiction. Little I, 442
S.W.3d at 45. In Little I, we reasoned that because
an economic development corporation is not a political
subdivision of the state, it is not inherently entitled to
governmental immunity from suit. Id. at 42;
see Tex. Loc. Gov't Code Ann. § 501.055(b).
We then concluded that section 505.106 of the Act does not
grant a Type B economic development corporation immunity from
a breach of contract suit. Little I, 442 S.W.3d at
43-45; see Tex. Loc. Gov't Code Ann. §
ordinarily bound by a decision reached in a previous appeal
in the same case, but have discretion to reconsider an issue
if the court's original decision was erroneous. See
Briscoe v. Goodmark Corp., 102 S.W.3d 714, 716 (Tex.
2003). We decline to reconsider the issue and for the reasons
stated in Little I, hold LVEDC is not immune from
this breach of contract suit.
also argues we should reverse the judgment because it was
immune from any liability arising from its acts in connection
with the Town Center project. After Little rested at trial,
LVEDC moved for an instructed verdict, arguing that, pursuant
to section 505.106(a) of the Texas Local Government Code, it
is immune from liability for all ...