Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas
Appeal from the 44th Judicial District Court Dallas County,
Texas Trial Court Cause No. DC-16-08711
Justices Myers, Osborne, and Nowell
Ruth Torres files this interlocutory appeal of the trial
court's order granting Dallas-Fort Worth International
Airport Board (DFW)'s plea to the jurisdiction. Torres
brings six issues on appeal. Four of her issues question
DFW's defense of governmental immunity and whether it was
waived. Torres's fifth issue argues she is entitled to a
remedy under the Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act. Her sixth
issue avers that DFW's "appeal to the
jurisdiction" stayed all proceedings and that the trial
court erred by continuing to issue orders after jurisdiction
was questioned. We affirm the trial court's grant of the
plea to the jurisdiction.
underlying dispute in this case concerns a contract in which
Torres was to provide human resources consulting services to
Pursuit of Excellence (POE), a corporation that contracted
with DFW to provide airport operations services. DFW operates
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. See Tex.
Transp. Code §§ 22.074(c), (d). On July 20, 2016,
POE filed suit against Torres for breach of contract, breach
of fiduciary duty, misappropriation of trade secrets, unjust
enrichment, tortious interference with contract and business
relationships, and commercial disparagement. Torres filed an
answer, denying the allegations and asserting counterclaims
against POE. She also added third-party claimants, including
DFW. On May 14, 2018, DFW filed a plea to the jurisdiction,
asserting governmental immunity from tort and contract
claims. Torres filed an answer, and DFW filed a reply to that
answer. On June 4, 2018, the trial court signed an order
granting DFW's plea to the jurisdiction. Torres filed a
notice of appeal challenging that order, among other orders.
We ordered Torres to file a brief in this case limited to the
trial court's order granting DFW's plea to the
jurisdiction. We determined that we lack jurisdiction over
numerous issues raised in Torres's notice of appeal, and
that review of the trial court's denial of Torres's
motion to dismiss under the TCPA would proceed under a
separate case number. Accordingly, we now review the
arguments before us on appeal.
standing to sue and governmental immunity are issues of the
trial court's subject-matter jurisdiction. Tex.
Ass'n of Bus. v. Tex. Air Control Bd., 852 S.W.2d
440, 443 (Tex. 1993) (standing is a component of
subject-matter jurisdiction); Tex. Dep't of Parks
& Wildlife v. Miranda, 133 S.W.3d 217, 225-26 (Tex.
2004) (governmental immunity from suit implicates trial
court's subject matter jurisdiction). Subject-matter
jurisdiction is never presumed and cannot be waived. Tex.
Ass'n of Bus., 852 S.W.2d at 443-44. Whether a court
has subject-matter jurisdiction is a question of law.
Miranda, 133 S.W.3d at 226.
review the trial court's ruling on a plea to the
jurisdiction under a de novo standard of review. Town of
Fairview v. Lawler, 252 S.W.3d 853, 856 (Tex.
App.-Dallas 2008, no pet.). When a plea to the jurisdiction
challenges the pleadings, we look to whether the plaintiff
has alleged facts that affirmatively demonstrate the
court's jurisdiction to hear the case. Miranda,
133 S.W.3d at 226.
plea to the jurisdiction challenges the existence of
jurisdictional facts, we consider relevant evidence submitted
by the parties when necessary to resolve the jurisdictional
issues raised. Id. at 227. This standard mirrors the
summary judgment standard under rule 166a(c), Texas Rules of
Civil Procedure, and places the burden on the plaintiff to
allege facts that affirmatively demonstrate the trial
court's jurisdiction. City of Dallas v. Hughes,
344 S.W.3d 549, 553 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2011, no pet.) (citing
Miranda, 133 S.W.3d at 227-28). Once the plaintiff
has done so, the government entity must meet the summary
judgment standard of proof to support its contention that the
trial court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction. Id.
The plaintiff must then show that a disputed fact issue
exists. Id. If the relevant evidence fails to raise
a fact question or is undisputed on the jurisdictional issue,
we determine the plea as a matter of law. Id.
(citing Miranda, 133 S.W.3d at 228).
Operation of DFW Airport is a Governmental Function as a
Matter of Law
first issue, Torres contends the trial court "erred or
abused its discretion" in granting DFW's plea to the
jurisdiction. She argues that by providing evidence in
response to DFW's plea to the jurisdiction, she created a
fact issue, obligating the trial court to deny the plea.
a special purpose governmental entity. Dallas/Fort Worth
Int'l Airport Bd. v. Ass'n of Taxicab Operators,
USA, 427 S.W.3d 547, 458 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2014, pet.
denied). That status affords it governmental immunity as a
matter of law, precluding the existence of the fact issue
Torres alleges. See Dallas/Fort Worth Int'l Airport
Bd. v. Vizant Techs., LLC,576 S.W. 362, 367 (Tex.
2019). We conclude ...