X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:This is an interlocutory appeal of the trial court’s denial of the defendant/appellant’s (Harris County) plea to the jurisdiction. Plaintiffs/appellees � the estate of Stephanie Ciccia, deceased; Luz M. Ciccia, as personal representative and as independent administratrix of the estate of Stephanie Ciccia, deceased; Luis Ciccia and Luz M. Ciccia, individually and as parents and next friends of Stephanie Ciccia, and as sole heirs of the estate of Stephanie Ciccia, deceased; and Giovanna Ciccia, individually � sued the county after Stephanie Ciccia died from injuries that she sustained in an automobile accident. Stephanie was a passenger in a car that crashed into a concrete culvert located at the end of an unfinished unlit roadway. The county contends that the trial court erred in denying its plea to the jurisdiction based on sovereign immunity. HOLDING:Affirmed. The road was initially designed with a designated right-hand turn lane marked with striping, arrows, and the words “right turn only” on the road surface, to serve a proposed concrete plant that was never built. Although the county’s construction of the right hand turn lane here was premature, and ultimately unnecessary, the court acknowledges that its construction was part of the road design and not a special defect. The design of a roadway is a permanent feature and thus not an unusual or unexpected danger. Villarreal v. State, 810 S.W.2d 419 (Tex. App. � Dallas 1991, writ denied). Nor is flawed roadway design of the same nature, kind, or class as an excavation or obstruction which unexpectedly and physically impairs a vehicle’s ability to travel on the roadway. The court holds that the county did not waive its sovereign immunity to liability for its initial design of the “right turn only” lane. The court concludes that the hazard here was not the result of a flawed road design, but instead resulted from the presence of a special defect. The culvert located beyond the end of the road onto which the “right turn only” lane directed traffic satisfies the definition of a special defect as a condition of the same kind or class as an excavation or obstruction that unexpectedly and physically impaired the Ciccias’ car’s ability to travel on the roadway. There was no indication that the road simply ended, and no lighting by which to see this at night. While the sudden ending of the road onto which traffic was directed could simply have been a nuisance if a car had become mired in unpaved earth, the culvert located just beyond the end of road presented an unusual and unexpected danger to ordinary users of the designated right turn lane. The culvert was not part of the roadway design, nor was the placement of the culvert an initial discretionary decision made in connection with the construction of the “right turn only” lane on Barker-Cypress Road. Rather, the culvert was added by a third party with the county’s permission after the right turn lane had been constructed; thus the county knew of this dangerous condition and had a duty to warn of the special defect. Even though the construction of the designated “right turn only” lane here was an initial discretionary decision of the county that was subject to immunity under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code �101.060(a), the county’s immunity to liability for failure to warn about the unlit culvert beyond the end of the road was still waived by �101.060(b). Accordingly, the court holds that the unlit culvert yards beyond the end of the road was a special defect and that the county was not immune from liability for its failure to warn of the defect. OPINION:Keyes, J.; Keyes, Alcala and Hedges, JJ.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 3 articles* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.