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City of Weslaco v. Trejo

Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg

June 21, 2018

CITY OF WESLACO, Appellant,
v.
RAQUEL TREJO AND ROBERTO TREJO, Appellees.

          On appeal from the County Court at Law No. 1 of Hidalgo County, Texas.

          Before Justices Rodriguez, Contreras, and Hinojosa.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          NELDA V. RODRIGUEZ, JUSTICE.

         Appellant City of Weslaco appeals the denial of its plea to the jurisdiction. By one issue, the City asserts that appellees Raquel and Roberto Trejo failed to establish a valid waiver of the City's governmental immunity, and dismissal is therefore required. We reverse and remand.

         I. Background

         For purposes of this appeal, all relevant background facts are drawn from the allegations in the Trejos' live petition. In 1997, the Trejos purchased a plot of undeveloped land in Hidalgo County. In 1998, the Trejos began preliminary work on a plan to develop the land. The City approved the plan in 2005, and the Trejos began work on what would become the Northcross Subdivision.

         The Trejos hired Rio Delta Engineering to develop plans and designs for the subdivision's infrastructure. Before lots could be sold, essential services such as water and sewer would have to be designed, built, and approved by the City. Rio Delta agreed to provide those services for a fee, which the Trejos paid.

         Rio Delta had another client nearby, the Apostolic Church, which was planning to build a facility near the Northcross Subdivision. The City elected to combine the sewer and water plans for both projects.

         The City approved the plans for the Northcross Subdivision in October of 2005. However, the Church's plans were not completed until 2007. The City began work on the sewer connection in March of 2007. The Trejos alleged that the sewer should have been completed in six months.

         Meanwhile, the Trejos continued development on the subdivision. The Trejos obtained a series of loans with Falcon National Bank in 2007 to finance the project. The notes were due to be repaid in January 2009.

         Sales of lots in the Northcross Subdivision began in 2008. By June 2008, five lots had been sold, subject to the recording of the subdivision with the City.

         However, the Trejos alleged that "recording was held up because of the lack of completion of the long delayed sewer line. All other tasks required were completed by March of 2008." While the Trejos awaited the completion of the sewer line, Falcon Bank initiated foreclosure on their loans.

         The Trejos filed suit alleging that the City was negligent in managing the sewer construction project, which "involved the use of motorized vehicles." Specifically, the Trejos alleged that the City was negligent in:

(1) using backhoes, bulldozers, and other motorized equipment including sewer lift stations, and pumps, to build and complete a sewerage system that was negligently constructed, incapable of carrying the foreseeable volumes, too shallow, and at an improper gradient, and further, to ...

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