Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler v. Smith

Court of Appeals of Texas, Twelfth District, Tyler

April 30, 2019

UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS HEALTH SCIENCE CENTER AT TYLER, APPELLANT
v.
NORMA LYNN SMITH, APPELLEE

          Appeal from the 114th District Court of Smith County, Texas (Tr.Ct.No. 16-0813-B)

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

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GREG NEELEY JUSTICE

         The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler (UTHSC) appeals from the trial court's denial of its plea to the jurisdiction in Norma Lynn Smith's negligence action.[1] In its sole issue, UTHSC contends the trial court erred in denying the plea because Smith's pleading does not demonstrate that UTHSC waived immunity to suit. We reverse and render judgment dismissing Smith's claims for want of jurisdiction.

         Background

         Dr. Steven Cox, an employee of UTHSC, surgically removed Smith's gall bladder. She experienced post-operative complications. Smith sued UTHSC for medical negligence, alleging waiver of immunity for injuries caused by use and/or misuse of tangible personal property, an electrocautery instrument.

         UTHSC filed a plea to the jurisdiction asserting that Smith's petition fails to establish a waiver of UTHSC's sovereign immunity as required by the Texas Tort Claims Act[2] and moved for a dismissal for want of subject matter jurisdiction.[3] After a hearing, the trial court denied the plea. UTHSC appealed the interlocutory order.

         Jurisdiction

         In its sole issue, UTHSC asserts that Smith's petition does not establish that UTHSC waived its sovereign immunity. It argues that Smith alleged that her post-operative complications were proximately caused by Dr. Cox's use/misuse of an electrocautery instrument but does not establish that he used or misused any surgical instrument in a negligent manner or that he damaged her biliary system. It further argues that Smith's allegation that Dr. Cox failed to repair the injury is an allegation of non-use of property which is not actionable under the statute. Additionally, UTHSC asserts that Smith's allegation that Dr. Cox negligently performed a surgery that was not medically indicated is an allegation of an error in medical judgment which is not actionable under the statute.

         Standard of Review

         Subject matter jurisdiction is essential to the authority of a court to decide a case. Tex. Ass'n of Bus. v. Tex. Air Control Bd., 852 S.W.2d 440, 443 (Tex. 1993). A plea to the jurisdiction challenges the trial court's authority to determine the subject matter of a specific cause of action. Starkey ex rel. Ragsdale v. Andrews Ctr., 104 S.W.3d 626, 628 (Tex. App.-Tyler 2003, no pet.). If a party believes that the plaintiff's petition does not show jurisdiction and cannot be amended to allege jurisdiction, the party may file a plea to the jurisdiction at any time. Id.

         Because subject matter jurisdiction presents a question of law, we review the trial court's ruling on a plea to the jurisdiction de novo. Mayhew v. Town of Sunnyvale, 964 S.W.2d 922, 928 (Tex. 1998). In reviewing a plea to the jurisdiction, we review the pleadings and any evidence relevant to the jurisdictional issue. Tex. Dep't of Criminal Justice v. Miller, 51 S.W.3d 583, 587 (Tex. 2001). We accord the trial court's decision no deference. Quick v. City of Austin, 7 S.W.3d 109, 116 (Tex. 1998). We construe the plaintiff's pleadings liberally in the plaintiff's favor and look to the pleader's intent. Tex. Dep't of Parks & Wildlife v. Miranda, 133 S.W.3d 217, 226 (Tex. 2004). We take as true all evidence favorable to the non-movant and indulge every reasonable inference and resolve any doubts in the non-movant's favor. Id. at 228.

         Applicable Law

         Pursuant to the doctrine of sovereign immunity, the State of Texas cannot be sued in her own courts without her consent and then only in the manner indicated by that consent. Wichita Falls State Hosp. v. Taylor, 106 S.W.3d 692, 694 (Tex. 2003). Absent the State's consent to suit, a trial court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. Tex. Dep't of Transp. v. Jones, 8 S.W.3d 636, 638 (Tex. 1999) (per curiam). The Texas Tort Claims Act provides a limited waiver of immunity, allowing suits against governmental units under certain, narrowly defined circumstances. Miller, 51 S.W.3d at 587. The Act provides that a governmental unit is liable for personal injuries caused by a condition or use of tangible personal property if the governmental unit would, were it a private person, be ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.