Court of Appeals of Texas, Third District, Austin
THE 335TH DISTRICT COURT OF BASTROP COUNTY NO. 223-335, THE
HONORABLE REVA TOWSLEE-CORBETT, JUDGE PRESIDING
Justices Goodwin, Baker, and Kelly
J. Baker, Justice
interlocutory appeal, Paul Johnson contends that the trial
court erred in granting the plea to the jurisdiction filed by
several employees of the Bastrop Central Appraisal District
(the District) and dismissing his claims against them. We
affirm the portion of the trial court's order dismissing
Johnson's claims against the employees in their official
capacities and dismiss for lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction the portion of this appeal pertaining to
Johnson's claims against the employees in their
filed an original petition against the District appealing an
order of its Appraisal Review Board (ARB) denying his
application for an "open space" appraisal, which
would have reduced his property taxes. See Tex. Tax
Code §§ 23.51(1) (defining "qualified
open-space land"), 42.01 (providing property owner right
to appeal order of ARB); see also id. § 23.54
(outlining procedures for filing application for open-space
appraisal). Johnson amended his petition several times,
adding claims for fraud and "official oppression"
and seeking damages. Johnson then filed his live (third
amended) petition, adding as defendants several District
employees in both their official and individual capacities.
Johnson alleged that the employees (1) "subjected him to
assessments they knew were unlawful" because they knew
the appraisal manual they followed in processing his
application was "in conflict with" the law and (2)
"demanded" he provide them with information to
process his application that they knew he was not legally
required to provide.
employees filed a plea to the jurisdiction, contending that
(1) Johnson does not have standing to pursue criminal charges
for official oppression, see Tex. Penal Code §
39.03(a); (2) Johnson irrevocably elected to sue the District
rather than its employees regarding the same subject matter,
depriving the court of jurisdiction over his claims against
the employees, see Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code
§ 101.106(a); and (3) the Property Code provides an
exclusive remedy for Johnson's complaint, depriving the
court of jurisdiction to consider his claims against the
individual employees, see Tex. Tax Code §
trial court found that the plea to the jurisdiction was
"meritorious" and held that the employees "are
entitled immunity from the claims asserted against
them." Accordingly, the trial court granted the plea and
dismissed "all claims" against the employees with
prejudice. Johnson filed this interlocutory appeal of that
to the jurisdiction challenges a court's authority over
the subject matter of a claim. City of Ingleside v. City
of Corpus Christi, 469 S.W.3d 589, 590 (Tex. 2015) (per
curiam). Whether a court has subject-matter jurisdiction is a
question of law that we review de novo. Id. We
construe the pleadings liberally and in light of the
pleader's intent to determine if the plaintiff has
alleged facts affirmatively demonstrating the trial
court's jurisdiction to hear the claim. Meyers v.
JDC/Firethorne, Ltd., 548 S.W.3d 477, 486 (Tex. 2018).
contends on appeal that "each ground that Appellees pled
for their Plea to the Jurisdiction is groundless."
Because the trial court's order did not specify which of
the grounds it found meritorious, we need not address each
ground raised by the employees if we conclude that the trial
court's order was correct on any of the grounds. See
Combined Specialty Ins. v. Deese, 266 S.W.3d 653, 657
(Tex.App.-Dallas 2008, no pet.).
employees contended in their plea to the jurisdiction that
Johnson's initial filing of his lawsuit against only the
District constituted an irrevocable election under the Texas
Tort Claims Act (TTCA) barring any suit or recovery by him
against any individual employee of the District regarding the
same subject matter. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem.
Code § 101.106(a). Therefore, they argue on appeal, the
trial court properly dismissed his claims against them.
See Molina v. Alvarado, 463 S.W.3d 867, 871 (Tex.
2015) (per curiam) (holding that when plaintiff initially
filed suit against only governmental unit rather than its
employee, that irrevocable election barred him from later
suing employee of governmental unit regarding same subject
matter, and rendering judgment for employee on his
summary-judgment motion). Johnson retorts that the TTCA's
election-of-remedies provision does not apply because he
filed "ultra vires" claims against the employees
rather than claims "under" the TTCA. However, while
Johnson frames his claims on appeal as "ultra
vires," his pleadings allege only intentional torts
against the employees-for which he seeks damages-and do not
allege any ultra vires claims against them. See City of
El Paso v. Heinrich,284 S.W.3d 366, 372, 374 (Tex.
2009) (defining ultra vires claims as those alleging that
governmental officer either acted without legal authority or
failed to perform purely ministerial act and ...