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City of Beaumont v. Ermis

Court of Appeals of Texas, Ninth District, Beaumont

March 30, 2017

CITY OF BEAUMONT, BOYD MEIER, AND QUENTIN PRICE, Appellants
v.
TAMMY ERMIS, Appellee

          Submitted on March 23, 2016

          On Appeal from the 58th District Court Jefferson County, Texas Trial Cause No. A-186, 662

          Before McKeithen, C.J., Horton and Johnson, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HOLLIS HORTON Justice

         In this appeal, we address whether the trial court possessed subject-matter jurisdiction over a petition Tammy Ermis filed seeking judicial review of an order issued by the City in October 2007, which authorized a structure located at 2002 Park Street to be demolished. See Tex. Loc. Gov't Code Ann. § 214.001(a)(1) (West 2016) (providing that municipalities may, by ordinance, require that a structure be vacated, the occupants relocated, or that the structure be secured, repaired, removed, or demolished because it presents a hazard to public health, safety and welfare); Id. § 214.0012(a) (West 2016) (providing for the classes of individuals who may seek judicial review in a district court complaining of such orders). In two issues, the appellants argue the trial court erred by denying the City's plea, and the appellants claim the trial court erred when it overruled the City's objection to some of the evidence that Tammy submitted in her response to the City's plea.

         Because the evidence conclusively shows that Tammy was on notice of the City's order to demolish the structure at 2002 Park Street when she acquired her community-property interest in the structure, we conclude that the trial court does not have jurisdiction over Tammy's complaints about the ordinance the City passed declaring the structure dangerous and ordering the structure demolished. As to the City, we reverse and render judgment dismissing Tammy's suit with prejudice. We further conclude that we do not have jurisdiction over the appeals filed by Boyd Meier and Quentin Price, the two city employees Tammy added as defendants in the case after the trial court ruled on the City's plea. As to Meier and Price, the record does not contain an appealable order on the pleas to the jurisdiction that they filed contesting whether the trial court possessed subject-matter jurisdiction over the claims Tammy filed against them.

         Background

         When the trial court ruled on the City of Beaumont's plea, the pleadings and evidence that were before it revealed that Tammy acquired her interest in the structure at 2002 Park Street in March 2008. Before Tammy acquired the property, the City, in October 2007, had found the structure at 2002 Park Street to be dangerous and ordered the structure to be demolished.

         The following evidence was undisputed regarding the actions the City had taken against the structure to have it demolished. In January 2007, a field supervisor for the City of Beaumont signed a notice declaring the structure dangerous as defined by the ordinances of the City of Beaumont. The notice also states that the structure may not be lawfully occupied, and that the structure could be demolished without further notice.[1] In October 2007, based on the action of City Council, Beaumont's acting mayor approved ordinance number 07-105 declaring the structure a public nuisance that violated the City's building ordinances. The ordinance indicates that the owners were required to demolish the structure at 2002 Park Street within ten days, and the ordinance states that if the owners failed to do so, the property could be demolished by the City without further notice and without further action by City Council.

         Two days after the City passed ordinance number 07-105, the City sent Timothy B. Seymour and Steven J. Seymour a notice, by certified mail, informing them that they were required to demolish or remove the structure within ten days. The notice also states that the City could demolish the structure without further notice or action by City Council. The record includes a return receipt for the notice indicating that the Seymours received the notice less than a week after it was mailed.

         In March 2008, Timothy B. Seymour, joined by his spouse, Vickie Ann Seymour, conveyed their interest in the lot at 2002 Park Street to Brian Muldrow using a special warranty deed with a vendor's lien. Brian's name is listed as the grantee on the deed to the property at 2002 Park Street. Tammy's name is not on the deed. However, the record before the trial court on the City's plea shows that Tammy and Brian were married before Brian acquired the property. One of the exhibits in the record includes a marriage license showing that Brian and Tammy married in January 2008.

         In April 2010, Tammy filed a petition in the 58th District Court of Jefferson County challenging the validity of ordinance number 07-105. In her petition, Tammy alleged that when she and Brian purchased the property, they understood that it was subject to a demolition order that had been issued by the City of Beaumont to Timothy Seymour, who she alleged was the prior owner of the structure at 2002 Park Street.

         In October 2015, the trial court denied the City of Beaumont's plea. When the trial court ruled on the plea, Meier and Price were not parties to the case. However, on the day after the trial court denied the plea, Tammy filed a supplemental petition, alleging that Meier and Price had prevented her from obtaining the building permits that she needed to repair the structure at 2002 Park Street. Meier's response to Tammy's supplemental petition indicates that he is an employee of the City responsible for issuing building permits and conducting inspections to insure that buildings comply with the City's building codes. Price's response to Tammy's supplemental petition indicates that he is an assistant city attorney for the City, and that his actions regarding the structure at 2002 Park Street occurred in his role as an assistant city attorney. In responding to Tammy's supplemental petition, Meier and Price adopted the City's plea to the jurisdiction, a plea that the trial court had already denied. In the initial response that Meier and Price filed, they did not assert any claims based on their official immunity as employees of a governmental unit. On the date that they first appeared, the City, Meier, and Price also filed a joint motion requesting that the trial court rehear the City's plea.

          Approximately one week after Meier and Price appeared in the suit, the City, Meier, and Price, filed an amended answer. In it, the City, Meier, and Price alleged that at all times, Meier and Price were performing their discretionary duties, in good faith, and that they were acting within the scope of their authority as City employees. Meier and Price also alleged they enjoyed a right to official immunity, which immunized them from being sued for the actions they took in response to Tammy's requests to repair the structure. On the day the defendants filed their first amended answer, the trial court denied the request the City, Meier, and Price filed asking the trial court to rehear the City's plea.

         Within twenty days of the date the trial court denied the City's plea to the jurisdiction, the City, Meier, and Price filed a timely joint notice of appeal. Tex.R.App.P. 26.1(b) (requiring notices in accelerated appeals to be filed within twenty days after the judgment is signed); Tex.R.App.P. 28.1(b) (providing motions for new trial, among other types of motions or requests, do not extend the time to perfect an accelerated appeal). We note our jurisdiction over the City's appeal from the order the trial court rendered on its plea to the jurisdiction. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. ...


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