Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg
appeal from the 343rd District Court of San Patricio County,
Chief Justice Contreras and Justices Benavides and Longoria
L. LONGORIA, JUSTICE
Bart Burns argues on appeal that the trial court erred by
granting appellee San Patricio County's (the County) plea
to the jurisdiction and dismissing the case without allowing
him to replead his claims. We affirm.
26, 2017, Burns was involved in a crash when the aircraft he
was piloting landed at T.P. McCampbell-Porter Airport
(Airport), which is owned and operated by the County. As he
touched down on the runway of the Airport, a vehicle towing a
trailer passed in front of him causing a collision between
his aircraft and the trailer.
filed his original petition against the County and Donald
Young, the operator of the vehicle, alleging
negligence by both defendants. The County filed its plea to
the jurisdiction and answer to Burns's petition, arguing
that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over
the cause of action because the County is protected by
sovereign immunity. Prior to the hearing on the County's
plea to the jurisdiction, the County filed a supplemental
plea to the jurisdiction and motion to dismiss, to which
Burns filed a response. Burns argued that the County's
sovereign immunity was waived under the Texas Tort Claims Act
(TTCA). See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann.
§ 101.021(2). The County filed a reply to Burns's
trial court held a hearing on the County's plea to the
jurisdiction and motion to dismiss. After hearing testimony
and being presented with evidence, the trial court granted
the County's plea to the jurisdiction and motion to
dismiss. This appeal followed.
Plea to the Jurisdiction
contends that the trial court erred in granting the
County's plea to the jurisdiction and motion to dismiss
because: (1) sovereign immunity was waived as properly raised
in his petition; and (2) if his claim was "improperly or
insufficiently pled," he should have been given the
opportunity to replead.
TTCA provides a limited waiver of governmental immunity and,
unless waived, governmental immunity from suit deprives a
trial court of subject matter jurisdiction in a suit against
a governmental unit such as the County. Tex. Dep't of
Parks & Wildlife v. Miranda, 133 S.W.3d 217, 224
(Tex. 2004) (citing Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann.
§§ 101.001-.109). We review a trial court's
ruling on subject-matter jurisdiction de novo. Id.
at 226, 228. "A plea to the jurisdiction is a dilatory
plea, the purpose of which is to defeat a cause of action
without regard to whether the claims asserted have
merit." Bland Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Blue, 34
S.W.3d 547, 554 (Tex. 2000). In most cases, a plea to the
jurisdiction "should be decided without delving into the
merits of the case." Id.; see Jefferson
County v. Farris, 569 S.W.3d 814, 820 (Tex. App.-Houston
[1st Dist.] 2018, pet. filed).
reviewing a trial court's jurisdictional ruling, we
construe the pleadings in the plaintiff's favor. Tex.
Ass'n of Bus. v. Tex. Air Control Bd., 852 S.W.2d
440, 446 (Tex. 1993). A plaintiff bears the burden to allege
facts affirmatively demonstrating the trial court's
jurisdiction to hear the case. Dall. Area Rapid Transit
v. Whitley, 104 S.W.3d 540, 542 (Tex. 2003). We consider
only the plaintiff's pleadings and evidence relevant to
the jurisdictional inquiry. Id. We take as true all
evidence favorable to the plaintiff and indulge every
reasonable inference and resolve all doubts in his favor.
Miranda, 133 S.W.3d at 228. "[T]his standard
generally mirrors that of a summary judgment."
Id. Thus, the burden is on the movant to present
evidence establishing that the trial court lacks jurisdiction
as a matter of law. Id. Thereafter, the burden
shifts to the plaintiff to demonstrate that a disputed issue
of material fact exists regarding the jurisdictional issue.
Id. "If a fact issue exists, the trial court
should deny the plea." Mission Consol. Indep.
Sch. Dist. v. Garcia, 372 S.W.3d 629, 635 (Tex.
2012). "But if the relevant evidence is undisputed or
the plaintiff fails to raise a fact question on the
jurisdictional issue, the trial court rules on the plea as a
matter of law." Id.
there is a gap in jurisdictional facts, the trial court is
required to afford the plaintiff an opportunity to amend its
pleadings." Green Tree Servicing, LLC v. Woods,
388 S.W.3d 785, 792 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2012, no
pet.). A trial court's subject-matter jurisdiction cannot
be challenged in a no-evidence motion for summary judgment or
by an allegation in a plea to ...