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Catoe v. Henderson County

Court of Appeals of Texas, Twelfth District, Tyler

May 10, 2017

CHRISTINA CATOE, APPELLANT
v.
HENDERSON COUNTY, TEXAS AND ADAM SLAYTER, APPELLEES

         Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 2 of Henderson County, Texas (Tr.Ct.No. 00155-CCL2-16)

          Panel consisted of Worthen, C.J., Hoyle, J., and Neeley, J.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          James T. Worthen Chief Justice

         Christina Catoe appeals the trial court's order dismissing her claims against Adam Slayter. She presents one issue on appeal. We affirm.

         Background

         Catoe sued Henderson County and Slayter, a detention officer employed by Henderson County, alleging that Slayter assaulted her while she was in custody. In her petition, Catoe alleged that Slayter was liable for assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and sexual harassment. She further asserted that the County negligently hired, supervised, or trained Slayter.

         The County moved to dismiss Catoe's claims against Slayter pursuant to section 101.106(e) of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. The trial court granted the motion. The County then filed a plea to the jurisdiction arguing that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over it because its immunity had not been waived under the Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA). The trial court granted the motion. This appeal followed.

         Dismissal Under the Tort Claims Act

         In her only issue, Catoe contends the trial court erred by dismissing her claims against Slayter pursuant to section 101.106(e). She urges that the TTCA did not mandate dismissal because her claims do not fit within the TTCA's limited waiver of immunity and, therefore, were not brought "under" the TTCA.[1]

         Standard of Review

         Generally, we review a trial court's order on a motion to dismiss under an abuse of discretion standard. Am. Transitional Care Ctrs. of Tex., Inc. v. Palacios, 46 S.W.3d 873, 878 (Tex. 2001). However, the proper standard of review is not necessarily determined by the type of motion to which the order relates, rather it is determined by the substance of the issue to be reviewed. Singleton v. Casteel, 267 S.W.3d 547, 550 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2008, pet. denied) (citing In re Doe, 19 S.W.3d 249, 253 (Tex. 2000)).

         Here, the County's motion raised an issue of immunity as conferred by section 101.106 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. See Franka v. Velasquez, 332 S.W.3d 367, 371 n.9 (Tex. 2011) (section 101.106 confers immunity to employees of governmental units in certain circumstances). If immunity applies, the trial court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the case. See Tex. Dep't of Parks & Wildlife v. Miranda, 133 S.W.3d 217, 224 (Tex. 2004); see also Univ. of Tex. Health Sci. Ctr. at San Antonio v. Webber-Eells, 327 S.W.3d 233, 240 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2010, no pet.) (section 101.106 is a jurisdictional statute involving waiver of immunity). Subject matter jurisdiction is a question of law, which we review de novo. Miranda, 133 S.W.3d at 226. Likewise, we review matters of statutory construction under a de novo standard. City of San Antonio v. City of Boerne, 111 S.W.3d 22, 25 (Tex. 2003).

         Applicable Law

         Governmental immunity protects political subdivisions of the state, including counties, from suit and liability. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 101.001(3)(B) (West Supp. 2016). The TTCA provides a limited waiver of governmental immunity and caps recoverable damages. See id. § 101.021 (West 2011). In general, the TTCA waives governmental immunity for liability arising from the "use of a motor-driven vehicle or motor-driven equipment" or "a condition or use of tangible personal or real property." Id. The TTCA does not apply to a claim ...


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