Claims Against the State

A Court of Appeals has affirmed a Travis County jury’s award of over $5 million* in a premises liability claim against the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) after determining that TxDOT had adequate notice of the claim.

The appeal arises out of a motor vehicle accident where a driver was killed, and his passengers severely injured after hydroplaning and crashing on Highway 290. The complaint alleged that the condition of the roadway posed an unreasonable risk of harm and was the direct cause of the accident. Following a five-day jury trial, a Travis County jury agreed and returned a verdict in favor of the Plaintiffs, specifically finding TxDOT’s negligence with respect to the condition of the road at the time and place of the accident. In response, TxDOT filed an appeal contending that it did not receive adequate written notice of the claim as required by the Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA), and therefore, the trial court did not have jurisdiction to hear the case.

Generally, the state and its governmental entities enjoy sovereign immunity, meaning they are protected from being sued. However, the TTCA waives immunity for specific tort claims, including premises defects. To trigger the TTCA, a claimant must send adequate written notice to the governmental entity they intend to bring suit against. Yet, it is vital to keep in mind that the damages that are recoverable in a claim against the state or its governmental entities are limited. The TTCA limits damages in these claims to no more than $250,000 per person and $500,000 per occurrence for bodily injury, and $100,000 per occurrence for damaged property.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact an attorney at Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Agosto, Aziz & Stogner by calling (713) 222-7211 or toll free at 713-222-7211.

*as a result of the liability limitations under the TTCA, the trial court remitted the award to a total of $500,000 in its final judgment against TxDOT.