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
Hidalgo County (the County), 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 County 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 four issues, the County contends that the trial
court erred in denying its plea to the jurisdiction based on
government immunity. We reverse and render.
26, 2010, a police officer with the city of Pharr, 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 County, including
Deputy John Ortega, joined the pursuit of the Expedition,
which traveled at a high rate of speed.
thereafter, Officer Gonzalez disengaged the pursuit at the
intersection of Tower and Trenton Roads, but he did not
advise the other agencies to disengage the pursuit. While
Deputy Ortega pursued 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 County alleging negligence. The trial
court denied the County's plea to the jurisdiction. This
interlocutory appeal followed.
second issue, which is dispositive for purposes of this
appeal, the County contends that the trial court erred in
denying its plea to the jurisdiction based on its immunity
from suit under section 101.055(2) of the Texas Tort Claims
Act. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. §
101.055(2) (West, Westlaw through 2015 R.S.).
Standard of Review
to the jurisdiction challenges the trial court's
jurisdiction over the subject-matter of a claim. See Tex.
Dept. of Pub. Safety v. Sparks, 347 S.W.3d 834, 837
(Tex. App.-Corpus Christi 2011, no pet.). The
government's assertion of immunity is properly brought
through a plea to the jurisdiction because it challenges the
trial court's subject-matter jurisdiction. Id.
review de novo a trial court's ruling on a plea to the
jurisdiction alleging government immunity. Id. We
assume the truth of the jurisdictional facts alleged in the
plaintiff's pleadings unless the defendant-government
presents evidence to negate their existence. Id. If
the defendant-government provides evidence supporting
immunity, the burden shifts to the plaintiff to show that a
material fact is in dispute regarding the issue of immunity.
Id. If the plaintiff provides evidence raising a
fact question on the issue of immunity, then the issue of
immunity cannot be decided by the trial court on a plea to
the jurisdiction but instead must be taken to the fact-finder
for resolution. Id. For this reason, it has been
said that the standard for reviewing a plea to the
jurisdiction "generally mirrors" that of a
traditional motion for summary judgment. See id.;
see also Tex. R. Civ. P. 166a(c) (providing that the
existence of a genuine material fact issue precludes summary
judgment on a claim or affirmative defense).