Appeal from the 405th District Court Galveston County, Texas
Trial Court Case No. 14-CV-0768
consists of Justices Jennings, Higley, and Massengale.
Michael Massengale Justice
an appeal from the trial court's grant of a plea to the
jurisdiction. Appellant Antoinette Cooksey sued the Texas
Department of Criminal Justice based on injuries she
sustained in a car accident. TDCJ filed a plea to the
jurisdiction, contending that Cooksey had failed to provide
it with notice of her claims. The trial court granted the
sole issue on appeal, Cooksey argues that the trial court
erred by granting TDCJ's plea to the jurisdiction because
it had actual notice of her claims. Because Cooksey's
evidence did not raise a fact issue regarding whether TDCJ
had actual subjective awareness of its alleged fault in
causing her injuries, we affirm.
employees of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice,
Officer Amanda Dewalt and Officer Paulette Bryant, were
assigned to transport an inmate, Antoinette Cooksey, from the
Lane Murray Unit to the Carole Young Medical Facility.
Cooksey was wheelchair bound, which required the officers to
transport her in a special wheelchair-accessible van. After
strapping Cooksey and her wheelchair into the van, the
officers departed for the medical facility. On the way, a
drunk driver hit the back of the van, causing it to swerve
into the median of the highway. After the accident, the
officers found Cooksey lying on the floor in the back of the
van, complaining of chest pains. Emergency Medical Services
personnel transported Cooksey to a hospital for assessment.
filed a suit for damages based on injuries she sustained
during the accident. In her original petition, she asserted
claims against the drunk driver, the owner of the vehicle
driven by the drunk driver, TDCJ, and the seller of the van
driven by TDCJ officers. Cooksey later amended her petition
to claim that TDCJ was responsible for her injuries caused by
Officer Dewalt's alleged failure to "maintain a
proper lookout or take proper evasive action to avoid the
collision." Cooksey also alleged that Officer Dewalt
failed to properly secure her in the van.
response to these allegations, TDCJ filed a plea to the
jurisdiction in which it contended that Cooksey had failed to
provide notice of her claims as required by the Texas Tort
Claims Act. As a result, TDCJ claimed that it had not waived
governmental immunity and the trial court lacked subject
matter jurisdiction over Cooksey's claims against it.
Cooksey filed a response, contending that formal notice was
not required because TDCJ had actual notice of her claims.
She attached several exhibits, consisting of documents
created during the course of TDCJ's investigation.
evidence that Cooksey relied upon to demonstrate TDCJ's
actual notice of her claims consisted of deposition testimony
from Officer Dewalt, witness statements regarding the
accident from Officer Dewalt and Officer Bryant, and other
documents created during the course of TDCJ's
deposition, Officer Dewalt testified that she received most
of her training "on the job, " and she never had
been to any formal training on how to transport an inmate in
a wheelchair. The officers' witness statements described
the events of the day of the accident, and both officers'
versions of events were similar. They both discussed how
Officer Dewalt followed all of the correct procedures in
strapping Cooksey into the van, and they described how their
van was rear-ended as they were traveling down the highway.
Both witness statements described the events that transpired
after the accident, including finding Cooksey lying on the
floor of the van.
remaining exhibits consisted of documents created during the
investigation of the accident. These documents included
several summaries of the accident. None of these documents
discussed the procedures the officers followed in strapping
Cooksey into the van in as much detail as the witness
hearing on the plea to the jurisdiction, the trial court
granted the plea and signed a take-nothing judgment ...