Texas Causes of Action & Affirmative Defenses

Texas Causes of Action & Affirmative Defenses

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sovereign immunity bars lawsuits against government except in case of consent (immunity waiver)

SOVEREIGN AND GOVERNMENTAL IMMUNITY - IMMUNITY FROM SUIT AND LIABILITY UNLESS WAIVER APPLIES

Under the common-law doctrine of sovereign immunity, the state cannot be sued without its consent. City of Houston v. Williams, No. 09-0770, 2011 WL 923980, at *3 (Tex. Mar. 18, 2011) (citing Tooke v. City of Mexia, 197 S.W.3d 325, 331 (Tex. 2006)).
 
Governmental immunity operates like sovereign immunity to afford similar protection to subdivisions of the state, including counties, cities, and school districts. Harris Cnty. v. Sykes, 136 S.W.3d 635, 638 (Tex. 2004) (citing Wichita Falls State Hosp. v. Taylor, 106 S.W.3d 692, 694 n.3 (Tex. 2003)); Learners Online, Inc. v. Dallas Indep. Sch. Dist., 333 S.W.3d 636, 641-42 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2009, no pet.).

Like sovereign immunity, governmental immunity has two components: immunity from liability, which bars enforcement of a judgment against a governmental entity, and immunity from suit, which bars suit against the entity altogether. Tooke, 197 S.W.3d at 332. Governmental immunity from suit deprives a trial court of subject matter jurisdiction and is properly asserted in a plea to the jurisdiction. See Miranda, 133 S.W.3d at 225-26.
        
“[E]ven if the State acknowledges liability on a claim, immunity from suit bars a remedy until the Legislature consents to suit.” Learners Online, 333 S.W.3d at 642 (quoting Ben Bolt-Palito Blanco Consol. Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Tex. Political Subdivisions Prop./Cas. Joint Self-Ins. Fund, 212 S.W.3d 320, 324 (Tex. 2006)). The plaintiff bears the burden of pleading facts affirmatively demonstrating waiver of immunity from suit. See, e.g., City of Irving v. Seppy, 301 S.W.3d 435, 443 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2009, no pet.). 

SOURCE: DALLAS COURT OF APPEALS – 05-11-00480-CV – 11/3/11