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San Antonio Independent School District v. Hale

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

June 27, 2018

SAN ANTONIO INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT, Appellant
v.
Maria HALE, Individually and as Next Friend of B.J.H., a Minor, Appellee

          From the 407th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2017CI12781 Honorable Karen H. Pozza, Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice, Marialyn Barnard, Justice Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice

         This is an accelerated appeal from the trial court's order denying Appellant San Antonio Independent School District's ("SAISD") plea to the jurisdiction based on governmental immunity. Because we conclude SAISD is immune from Appellee Maria Hale's ("Hale") claim, we reverse the trial court's denial of SAISD's plea to the jurisdiction and render judgment dismissing Hale's claim against SAISD for want of jurisdiction.

         Background

         Hale's minor son, B.J.H., was injured while riding a school bus owned and operated by SAISD. While the school bus was in motion, B.J.H. fell out of the school bus's rear exit door and landed on his head, sustaining severe injuries, including a traumatic brain injury. Hale alleges the accident was caused by a defect in the rear exit door's latching mechanism that caused the door to open while the school bus was in motion.

         Hale sued the designers and manufacturers of the school bus and the latch mechanism, asserting claims for products liability, negligence, misrepresentation, and breach of warranty. Hale also asserted a claim against SAISD for negligence "in failing to maintain an acceptable latch mechanism for the bus and in delivering it over to the SAISD bus driver to operate and transport children in that negligently maintained condition."

         SAISD filed a plea to the jurisdiction based on governmental immunity. After a hearing, the trial court denied the plea to the jurisdiction, and SAISD filed this accelerated appeal.

         Discussion

         A. Standard of review

         "A unit of state government is immune from suit and liability unless the state consents." Dallas Area Rapid Transit v. Whitley, 104 S.W.3d 540, 542 (Tex. 2003). A plea to the jurisdiction based on governmental immunity challenges the trial court's subject matter jurisdiction. Tex. Dep't of Parks & Wildlife v. Miranda, 133 S.W.3d 217, 225-26 (Tex. 2004). Whether the plaintiff has pleaded facts affirmatively demonstrating the trial court's subject matter jurisdiction is a question of law we review de novo. Id. at 226. We construe the pleadings "liberally in favor of the plaintiff[] and look to the pleader['s] intent." Id.

          B. Waiver of governmental immunity

         Hale alleges SAISD's governmental immunity is waived under section 101.021 of the Texas Tort Claims Act ("TTCA"). See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. ยง 101.021 (West 2011). Section 101.021 expressly waives governmental immunity from claims for injury arising from a ...


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