Texas Court of Appeals Says That Student’s Injury from Uncovered Fan Under School Bus Seat Resulted from “Use” of Bus, Triggering Jurisdiction in Trial Court

Most east Texas motor vehicle accident cases arise from a collision of some sort – typically, one vehicle striking another, as in a rear-collision or T-bone accident. Of course, there are other ways in which a person can be hurt by a vehicle.

For example, a recent appellate case involved a student who was injured by a fan on board a school bus. Just as with a collision-based car accident, one of the primary inquiries was likely to be whether the defendant acted negligently – that is, was there a breach of duty that proximately caused the injuries about which the plaintiff complained?

Given that the defendant was a governmental entity, however, another important question had to be addressed first: was the school district immune from suit under the provisions of the Texas Tort Claims Act, or had immunity been waived?

Facts of the Case

In a recent case appealed from the 191th Judicial District Court for Dallas County, Texas, the aggrieved party was a minor child whose fingers were reportedly lacerated by the turning blades of an unscreened fan underneath his seat (the accident happened when the child was placing his backpack out of the way). The child’s mother, acting as next friend, was the plaintiff in a negligence lawsuit filed against the defendant school district. The defendant filed a plea to the jurisdiction of the trial court, claiming that it was immune from the plaintiff’s claims because the Texas Tort Claims Act did not waive governmental immunity under the facts pleaded in the plaintiff’s complaint. The trial court denied the defendant’s plea, and it filed an interlocutory appeal.

The Court’s Ruling on the Issues

The Court of Appeals for the Fifth District of Texas at Dallas affirmed the lower court’s denial of the defendant’s plea to the jurisdiction and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with its appellate opinion. According to the court on appeal, the plaintiff had properly pleaded a waiver of the defendant’s governmental immunity and invoked the trial court’s jurisdiction insomuch as there had been an allegation that the minor child had suffered a personal injury as a result of the negligent operation or use of a motor-driven vehicle, namely, a school bus. In so holding, the court noted that the bus’s motor powered the fan that caused the child’s injury; without the motor power of the bus, the fan would not have been capable of causing the injury in question. Thus, the court reasoned that “use” of the bus caused the injury, hence triggering jurisdiction under the Act.

Talk to an East Texas Car Accident Attorney

Regardless of the type of motor vehicle accident in which you or a family member has been injured, experienced east Texas car accident attorney Earl Drott Law in Tyler, Smith County, Texas, is here to serve your legal needs. For a free consultation to discuss the process of holding a negligent driver or other careless defendant liable for money damages, call us at 903-531-9300 and schedule an appointment. There are many important deadlines in negligence lawsuits, especially when a governmental entity is involved, so please do not delay in talking to a lawyer about your situation; failure to take timely legal action can result in forfeiture of your legal rights, so act quickly!