Friday, April 24, 2015
Sovereign immunity and governmental immunity in Texas (2015 caselaw snips)
SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY AND ULTRA VIRES DOCTRINE
Sovereign immunity and its counterpart, governmental immunity, exist to protect the State and its political subdivisions from lawsuits and liability for money damages. Mission Consol. Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Garcia, 253 S.W.3d 653, 655 (Tex. 2008). Immunity from suit bars an action against the state unless the state expressly consents to the suit. Tex. Dep't of Transp. v. Jones, 8 S.W.3d 636, 638 (Tex. 1999). The party suing the governmental entity must establish the state's consent, which may be alleged either by reference to a statute or to express legislative permission. Id. We interpret statutory waivers of immunity narrowly, as the Legislature's intent to waive immunity must be clear and unambiguous. Mission Consol. Indep. Sch. Dist., 253 S.W.3d at 655 (citing TEX. GOV'T CODE ANN. § 311.034 (West, Westlaw through 2013 3d C.S.)).
Under the ultra vires exception to immunity, "suits to require state officials to comply with statutory or constitutional provisions are not prohibited by sovereign immunity, even if a declaration to that effect compels the payment of money." City of El Paso v. Heinrich, 284 S.W.3d 366, 372 (Tex. 2009) (explaining the ultra vires exception to immunity). However, such claims cannot be brought against Weslaco, because it retains immunity; therefore, the claims must be brought against Ramirez in her official capacity. See id. at 373. Accordingly, the trial court did not err in dismissing the claims against Weslaco for lack of jurisdiction.
SOURCE: CORPUS CHRISTI COURT OF APPEALS - No. 13-14-00054-CV - 1/8/ 2015