School District Liability Under The Texas Torts Claims Act

The Texas Tort Claims Act as codified in the Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code first gives school districts a broad grant of immunity from tort claims then sets forth certain limited exceptions to that immunity. Section 101.021 of the Civil Practices and Remedies Code provides that a governmental unit may be held liable for personal injuries or wrongful death if the injuries resulted from the negligent operation of a motor vehicle by an employee of a governmental unit acting in the course and scope of their employment. Section 101.001(3)(B) provides that a school district is a governmental unit within the meaning of the statute.

Section 101.023 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code sets damages caps for different types of governmental units. Claims against the state government are subject to a limitation of liability of $250,000 for each person and $500,000 for each single occurrence. The liability of a unit of local government is limited to $100,000 per person and $300,000 per occurrence. A school district is a unit of local government.

Section 101.101 provides for special notice provisions which require strict compliance. School districts are entitled to receive notice of a claim within six months of the injury producing accident. The notice must reasonably describe the alleged injury, the time and place of the incident, and the incident. Practitioners would be well advised to send a certified notice letter to school district superintendant at the first opportunity.

Section 101.106 sets forth so-called election of remedies provisions which could easily cause the unwary practitioner to unwittingly waive a portion of a claim.