NEEDHAM FIRE & RESCUE CO. AND MONTGOMERY COUNTY EMERGENCY SERVICES DISTRICT NO. 4, Appellants
ESMERALDA BALDERAS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS NEXT FRIEND OFHEIDI PADILLA, A MINOR, Appellee
Appeal from the 113th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 2015-29756
consists of Justices Busby, Donovan, and Brown.
appeal arises from the denial of a plea to the jurisdiction.
For the reasons stated below, we reverse and render.
February 4, 2014, there was a collision between a motor
vehicle driven by Esmeralda Balderas and a Needham Fire &
Rescue Company truck, driven by Joseph Galleno, Jr. There was
a passenger in Balderas' vehicle, her minor daughter,
22, 2015, Balderas filed suit against the Needham Fire &
Rescue Company, Montgomery County Emergency Services District
No. 4 ("ESD No. 4"), Galleno, and Montgomery
County, Texas, for personal injuries sustained in the
collision. Galleno was dismissed from the suit pursuant to
section 101.106(e) of the Texas Civil Practices and Remedies
Code, and a nonsuit, without prejudice, was entered as to
Montgomery County, Texas. Needham Fire & Rescue and ESD
No. 4 filed a plea to the jurisdiction. See Tex.
Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 101.106(e) (West
2011). Following a hearing, the trial court denied the plea
and from that order Needham Fire & Rescue and ESD No. 4
(collectively "appellants") bring this appeal.
review a trial court's ruling on a plea to the
jurisdiction de novo. Tex. Dep't of Parks &
Wildlife v. Miranda, 133 S.W.3d 217, 224 (Tex. 2004). If
the evidence creates a fact question regarding jurisdiction,
the trial court cannot grant the plea, and the fact question
will be resolved by the factfinder. Miranda, 133
S.W.3d at 227-28. If the relevant evidence is undisputed or
fails to raise a fact question, the trial court rules on the
plea as a matter of law. Id. at 228.The standard of
review for a plea to the jurisdiction based on evidence
"generally mirrors that of a summary judgment under
Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 166a(c)." Id.;
see Thornton v. Ne. Harris Cty. MUD 1, 447 S.W.3d
23, 32 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2014, pet. denied).
Under this standard, we take as true all evidence favoring
the nonmovant and draw all reasonable inferences and resolve
any doubts in the nonmovant's favor. Miranda,
133 S.W.3d at 228. "[A]fter the state asserts and
supports with evidence that the trial court lacks subject
matter jurisdiction, we simply require the plaintiff[ ], when
the facts underlying the merits and subject matter
jurisdiction are intertwined, to show that there is a
disputed material fact regarding the jurisdictional
issue." Id.; see City of Galveston v.
Murphy, No. 14- 14-00222-CV, 2015 WL 167178, at *2 (Tex.
App.-Houston [14th Dist.] Jan. 13, 2015, no pet.) (mem. op.)
(if the movant presents conclusive proof that the trial court
lacks subject matter jurisdiction, then the nonmovant must
present evidence sufficient to raise a material issue of fact
regarding jurisdiction, or the plea will be sustained).
parties do not dispute that Needham Fire & Rescue and ESD
No. 4 are governmental units and immune from suit, except to
the extent their immunity may be waived by the Texas Tort
Claims Act ("TTCA"). See Tex. Civ. Prac.
& Rem. Code Ann. § 101.001 (West Supp. 2016). In
their first issue, appellants contend immunity was not waived
because Balderas failed to comply with the notice provision
of the TTCA.
TTCA requires a plaintiff to notify a governmental unit of a
claim in order to invoke a waiver of sovereign immunity under
the statute. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 101.101
(West 2011). The purpose of the notice requirement is
to ensure prompt reporting of claims to enable governmental
units to gather information necessary to guard against
unfounded claims, settle claims, and prepare for trial.
Tex. Dep't Crim. Justice v. Simons, 140 S.W.3d
338, 344 (Tex. 2004). The failure to comply with the notice
requirements in the TTCA deprives the trial court of
subject-matter jurisdiction. City of Dallas v.
Carbajal, 324 S.W.3d 537, 537-38 (Tex. 2010) (per
curiam). There are two methods of accomplishing notice:
formal notice and actual notice. See id. We first
address whether Balderas provided formal notice.
notice must be submitted in writing. Cathey v.
Booth, 900 S.W.2d 339, 340 (Tex. 1995) (per curiam).
Further, the notice must be received within six months after
the day of the incident giving rise to claim. Tex. Civ. Prac.
& Rem. Code § 101.101(a).
record includes a copy of a letter addressed to the Needham
Fire Department, dated April 30, 2014. An affidavit was filed
by Steven Nelson, an employee ...