Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Three women who had been incarcerated at the Nueces County Substance Abuse Treatment Facility claimed that two guards at the facility sexually assaulted and harassed them. The women brought claims for civil rights violations under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and for premises defect under the Texas Tort Claims Act. The trial court granted the county’s plea to the jurisdiction, which was based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction and sovereign immunity. HOLDING:Reversed and remanded. Addressing subject matter jurisdiction, the court considers whether the women have standing, whether there is a live controversy and whether there is a justiciable controversy. The women have standing, because they have alleged injuries stemming from sexual assault and harassment against them. The controversy is live, not moot, because the women have an active grievance against the county, which denies the allegation. A judicial resolution would not amount to an advisory opinion, because it would bind the parties. Also, there is a justiciable controversy, because regardless of whether people who work at the treatment facility are state or county employees, there is still a controversy that will be resolved by the judicial relief sought. The court then examines whether there’s been a waiver of immunity under 1983 and the Texas Tort Claims Act. Although the protections of immunity are broad under state law, they do not extend to liability under the civil rights act, consequently, the trial court could not have properly dismissed the women’s 1983 claims based on immunity. As for the premises defect claim alleged under the TTCA, the court rules that the failure to provide a safe facility for treatment of the women could be considered a premises defect, at least for jurisdictional purposes. It does not amount to an intentional tort, and the defect proximately caused the women’s injuries. The court adds that it is making no comment on the merits of the women’s claim. Construing the women’s pleadings liberally, however, the court finds that the women have established jurisdiction on this claim. Again construing the pleadings liberally, the court finds that the women have made claims that surveillance cameras around the facility either did not work or were misplaced, thus much of the guards’ activities was never seen, and that this failure proximately caused their injuries. Although the court cannot conclude that such allegations affirmatively negate the possibility of jurisdiction, they are insufficient to demonstrate jurisdiction. Accordingly, appellants must be afforded an opportunity to amend their pleadings to detail exactly how the cameras were used or not used in a way to cause their injuries. Similarly, though alleging that the county’s negligent hiring, training and supervision of employees or its negligent implementation of county policies caused the women’s injuries by a condition or use of tangible property, the court cannot conclude that the petition affirmatively demonstrates the subject matter jurisdiction of the trial court. Nevertheless, the petition does not affirmatively negate the trial court’s jurisdiction, either, so the women must be allowed to amend their petition. OPINION:Garza, J.; Rodriguez, Castillo and Garza, JJ.

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

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 1 article* 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 © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.