Lawsuit Serves as Notice in Claim Against Texas County

October 8, 2010

The Texas Supreme Court has determined that a lawsuit filed against a “governmental unit” within six months of an incident can be regarded as sufficient notice under the Texas Tort Claims Act. The high court’s ruling reverses the dismissal by the Court of Appeals for the 14th District of Texas of a suit against a Texas county. The case was remanded back to the trial court.

In Glenn Colquitt v. Brazoria County, NO. 09-0369, the Texas Supreme Court found that because all of the pertinent details that are required in notice to a governmental unit in Texas when filing a claim against it were included in a lawsuit filed within the six-month deadline, the lawsuit itself “constitutes proper notice.”

The Supreme Court’s written opinion describes the case as follows:

“Glen Colquitt was injured in a fall while working for a private contractor at the Brazoria County jail. Within two months of his accident, Colquitt filed suit against Brazoria County alleging negligence and premises liability. Colquitt served the County with his petition, but he did not otherwise provide separate written notice of his claim.

“About two years later, the County filed a plea to the jurisdiction, contending that Colquitt’s failure to provide written notice deprived the trial court of jurisdiction under the Tort Claims Act.”

The trial court denied the county’s plea, after which the county appealed to the higher court. The court of appeals sided with the county, reversed the trial court’s finding and rendered “judgment that Colquitt’s lawsuit be dismissed.”

According to court documents, the appeals court read state statute as requiring that “formal or actual notice precede the filing of any lawsuit against the governmental unit, even those lawsuits filed within six months of the injury-producing incident.”

The high court, however, said the appeals court erred in its reasoning. “The Tort Claims Act does not require pre-suit notice when the claimant’s lawsuit provides all the requisite information and is served within six months of the incident,” the Court stated in its opinion.

It found that the suit filed within two months after the incident “provided the requisite notice.”

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