Texas Court of Appeals Says Failure to Give Timely Formal Notice Was Fatal to Claim Against City

vanishing timeTimeliness is extremely important in the litigation of an east Texas automobile accident case. Even if you are already of aware of the date that the statute of limitations runs in your particular case, there may be other requirements (with earlier deadlines) that require your attention – especially if a governmental entity or employee is likely to be a defendant.

Unfortunately, the failure to take timely legal action or comply with procedural requirements in a car wreck case is usually fatal to the plaintiff’s claim, even if he or she suffered permanent injuries and someone else was obviously at fault. (Even if the case is not ultimately dismissed, waiting too long to talk to a lawyer about your case can cause other issues, such as spoliation of evidence.)

Facts of the Case

In a recent appellate case (Court of Appeals for the Thirteenth District of Texas; No. 13-18-00090-CV), the plaintiffs were a mother and daughter who were injured in an automobile accident allegedly caused by a garbage truck driver employed by the defendant city. The accident happened on May 26, 2015. On May 18, 2016, the plaintiffs sent formal notice of their claim to the city.

The city filed a plea to the jurisdiction of the court, alleging that the plaintiff’s failure to file a formal notice of her claim within six months of the collision, as required by the Texas Tort Claims Act, deprived the trial court of jurisdiction over the plaintiff’s claim. The trial court granted the city’s plea to jurisdiction over the mother’s case individually but denied the plea with respect to the minor child’s claim. The city sought review from the appellate court (on appeal, the mother did not challenge the trial court’s order with respect to her individual case).

Holding of the Court

The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of the city’s plea to the jurisdiction and rendered judgment dismissing the plaintiff’s lawsuit due to lack of subject matter jurisdiction. It was undisputed that the plaintiff did not provide formal notice of her daughter’s claim within the time set forth under the Act, so the question on appeal was whether the city was subjectively aware of its responsibility for the girl’s injuries.

The only possible evidence of the city’s alleged awareness of the plaintiff’s claim was the police report filed by first responders to the scene. However, the report attributed fault solely to the failure of a third party (the driver of the vehicle in which the plaintiff and her daughter were riding at the time of the collision with the garbage truck) to control his speed. According to the court, there was nothing in the police report that could have apprised the city that its employee was in any way responsible for the accident. There being no viable form of notice under the Act, there was an incurable defect in jurisdiction such that the trial court erred in not granting the city’s plea to the jurisdiction of the court.

Talk to an East Texas Car Accident Lawyer

The plaintiff in this case may have thought she had plenty of time left under the statute of limitations to get her case started. Unfortunately, because her claim was against a governmental entity, there was another requirement – one which required much quicker action – that she may not have been aware of. If you or a loved one has been hurt in an east Texas automobile accident, Earl Drott Law is here to help. For a free case review, call us now at 903-531-9300. We will do everything we can to make sure you get every penny you are entitled to.

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