Court of Appeals of Texas, Seventh District, Amarillo
Appeal from the 154th District Court Lamb County, Texas Trial
Court No. DCV DCV-19890-18, Honorable Felix Klein, Presiding.
QUINN, C.J., and PIRTLE and PARKER, JJ.
Quinn Chief Justice.
Lawson, pro se, appeals from orders dismissing his suit
against Dr. Nicholas Edd and Karen Harmon. Edd and Harmon
filed their respective pleas to the jurisdiction of the trial
court, contending that jurisdiction over Lawson's claim
lay with the court that ordered Lawson's civil commitment
as a violent sexual predator. That court was the 435th Judicial
District Court of Montgomery County, Texas. The trial court
agreed, granted the motions, and dismissed the suit via two
it simply granted the plea to the jurisdiction filed by
Harmon and dismissed with prejudice. In the other, it
mentioned two grounds for dismissal of Lawson's claims
against Edd. One involved the exclusive jurisdiction of the
435th District Court. The second concerned Lawson's cause
of action being a health care liability claim and his failure
to file an expert's report as mandated by
appealed. His three issues concern whether the 435th District
Court had exclusive jurisdiction over the proceeding and
whether dismissal should have been without prejudice. He said
nothing about the propriety of dismissing with prejudice due
to the failure "to file" an expert's report. We
begin our review by addressing the propriety of granting the
pleas to the jurisdiction of the trial court. Whether a trial
court has subject-matter jurisdiction over a suit is a
question of law. Tex. Dept. Parks & Wildlife v.
Miranda, 133 S.W.3d 217, 226 (Tex. 2004). Consequently,
we review a decision holding that it did or did not under the
de novo standard of review. Id; Lubbock-Crosby
Cty. Cmty. Supervision & Corr Dept v. Lance, No.
07-14-00222-CV, 2014 Tex.App. LEXIS 13736, at *7 (Tex.
App.-Amarillo Dec. 22, 2014, no pet.) (mem. op.).
Furthermore, in assessing whether such jurisdiction actually
exists, we consider the plaintiff's pleadings and factual
allegations therein and any evidence pertinent to the
question. See Bland Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Blue, 34
S.W.3d 547, 555 (Tex. 2000); Lubbock-Crosby Cty. Cmty.
Supervision, 2014 Tex.App. LEXIS 13736, at *7. So too
must we accept as true those factual allegations. In re
Nurses License of Nichols, No. 07-17-00236-CV, 2018
Tex.App. LEXIS 4421, at *2 (Tex. App.- Amarillo June 18,
2018, no pet.) (mem. op.). Indeed, the plaintiff has the
burden to allege facts which affirmatively show the existence
of subject-matter jurisdiction. Id.
§ 841.082 of the Texas Health and Safety Code provides
that the court civilly committing someone as a sexually
violent predator "retains jurisdiction of the case with
respect to a proceeding conducted under . . . subchapter [E
of the statute] . . . or to a civil commitment proceeding
conducted under Subchapters F and G." Tex. Health &
Safety Code Ann. § 841.082(d) (West Supp.
2018). The debate before us concerns whether the
statute encompasses the factual allegations and causes of
action asserted by Lawson.
the true nature of those claims and allegations are depends
upon the substance of the pleading, as opposed to its label.
See In re J.Z.P., 484 S.W.3d 924, 925 (Tex. 2016)
(per curiam); Cupit v. Tex. Civil Commitment Office,
No. 07-18-00228-CV, 2018 Tex.App. LEXIS 9384, at *4 (Tex.
App.-Amarillo Nov. 16, 2018, no pet) (mem. op.). Our review
of Lawson's live pleading discloses a claim of breached
fiduciary duty founded upon actions and inactions undertaken
by Edd and Harmon. Those actions or inactions relate to the
development of a report for use in a biennial review of his
commitment. See Tex. Health & Safety Code
Ann. § 841.102(a) (West 2017) (stating that
"[n]ot later than the 60th day after the date of receipt
of the report submitted under Section 841.101, the judge
shall conduct a biennial review of the status of the
committed person"); see also id. §
841.101(a) (stating that "[i]n preparation for a
judicial review conducted under Section 841.102, the office
shall provide a report of the biennial examination to the
judge and to the person" which includes consideration of
whether to modify a requirement imposed on the person or
release the person from all requirements).
instance, in preparation for his 2017 biennial review, Edd
allegedly 1) failed to meet with Lawson's therapist
(Harmon), 2) knew that he had to meet with Harmon "in
order to effectively discuss [Lawson's] case," 3)
failed to perform "dynamic tests" on Lawson, and 4)
generally illustrated a "lack of consideration."
These circumstances resulted in Edd "produc[ing] and
convey[ing] inaccurate, misleading evidence to the 435th
Judicial District Court . . . . In [sic] the form of a
fraudulent instrument, which is represented within his
biased, conclusory Biennial Review Report."
other hand, not much was said within the live pleading of
Harmon's purportedly deficient actions or inactions. For
the most part, Lawson merely alluded to her purported status
as an intern seeking licensure. Yet, an affidavit he executed
and filed contemporaneously with his original petition shed
light on the nature of his accusations against Harmon. The
alleged misconduct consisted of her supposed failure to
doggedly have Edd meet with her to discuss Lawson's
situation. Such was necessary in his view as a part of a
thorough examination. He believed her efforts evinced
foregoing, according to Lawson, "prevented him from
receiving an adequate Biennial Review evaluation which will
show any meaningful progress in treatment while residing at
TCCC." To that we add various other representations
appearing in either Lawson's affidavit or his
presentation at the hearing conducted by the trial court on
the pleas to the court's jurisdiction. They consist of
him saying 1) "Edd has purposely sabotaged my Biennial
Report, so that the record will reflect badly before the
court upon its review of my case"; 2) "Edd . . .
committed intrinsic fraud upon the court, by failing to
provide the court with an accurate report of my
progress"; 3) "Edd is paid by the state to perform
Biennial Review Examinations for Texas Civil Commitment
Office"; 4) the examinations "are then used to
determine whether persons Civilly Committed under Texas law
remain likely to engage in predatory acts of sexual
violence"; 5) "the court then bases its decision to
either release such person or have them continue to remain
confined"; 6) "I'm suing for being harmed, for
them not doing their duties which were instilled, listening
to me and testing me and doing things they were supposed to
do under law . . . they didn't do it"; 7)
"[t]hey just skipped over it"; and 8) their
examination "was perfunctory."
Cupit, we observed that though one may call an
elephant an iguana, it is still an elephant. Cupit,
2018 Tex.App. LEXIS 9384, at *7. The same is no less true
here. Lawson may attempt to couch his complaint under the
monikers of breached fiduciary duty and tort. Yet, the
essence of his complaint encompasses the § 841.101(a)
biennial review and the ...