Leach v. City of Tyler, 21-0606

CourtSupreme Court of Texas
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM.
PartiesLeondra Leach, Petitioner, v. The City of Tyler, Respondent
Docket Number21-0606
Decision Date16 September 2022

Leondra Leach, Petitioner,
v.

The City of Tyler, Respondent

No. 21-0606

Supreme Court of Texas

September 16, 2022


On Petition for Review from the Court of Appeals for the Twelfth District of Texas

PER CURIAM.

In this personal-injury case arising under the Texas Tort Claims Act, Leondra Leach alleged that an improperly secured piece of lumber flew off a truck owned by the City of Tyler and struck him in the head. The City contended that the trial court had no jurisdiction because Leach had failed to provide the City with timely notice of his claim. The trial court agreed and granted summary judgment in favor of the City; the court of appeals affirmed. We hold that the City had sufficient notice and that the trial court's jurisdiction was secure. We therefore reverse the judgment below and remand to the trial court.

Leach was allegedly injured when he was driving a truck for his

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employer, Ameri-Tex Services. Ameri-Tex's truck also sustained damage to its side-mirror. Under Texas law, a governmental entity must "receive notice of a claim against it" within six months of the alleged injury. TEX. CIV. PRAC. &REM. CODE § 101.101(a). City charters and ordinances sometimes include separate notice requirements, which the Legislature has "ratified and approved." Id. § 101.101(b). The City of Tyler's charter requires notice of tort claims within thirty days. See TYLER, TEX., CHARTER, art. IX § 79 (1990). The City has promulgated a "Claims Notice" form that a claimant may submit to comply with the city charter's requirement. Ameri-Tex completed and filed that form seven days after the incident. Ameri-Tex told Leach that it would file a single notice both for itself and for Leach, so Leach himself filed nothing with the City during the thirty-day period that the city charter allows.

The dispute before us is whether the notice that the City received is sufficient, both under Section 101.101(a) and the city charter, to preserve Leach's right to pursue his tort claim. The court of appeals concluded that the notice provided in the form that Ameri-Tex filed was inadequate under Section 101.101(a) and did not separately examine whether the notice met the city charter's requirements. S.W.3d, 2021 WL 2371417, at *2-4 (Tex. App.-Tyler June 9, 2021). For two reasons, however, the court of appeals' analysis of Section 101.101(a) was erroneous.

First, Section 101.101(a) requires only that a notice be provided within six months of the incident and "reasonably describe: (1) the damage or injury claimed; (2) the time and place of the incident; and (3) the incident." TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE § 101.101(a). Ameri-Tex's

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notice did this. The court of appeals found it significant that Ameri-Tex listed only itself in the space for "Name of Claimant." But just inches below that line, a separate section of the form requested information about "any injuries sustained." In that space, Ameri-Tex said nothing about itself but only identified Leach's injury ("Head Contusion and neck strain") and supplied Leach's name, phone number, and address. At the top of the same page, Ameri-Tex listed the date and time of the incident ("Approx. 12:15 P.M." on "05-29-20"). And below Leach's contact information, Ameri-Tex provided this narrative describing the incident:

Leondra [Leach] had just left the landfill. Approx. a few miles down [the road,] Leondra passed a City of Tyler rolloff truck. A piece of [ ] wood flew from the roll-off truck struck our driver side mirror, entered the driver side window and struck Leondra in the head. Republic pulled surveillance [and] saw a City of Tyler roll-off enter the landfill shortly after we left. GPS shows we turned around at 12:15 P.M. and headed back to landfill.

Notice of this sort satisfies the statute's demand for basic information.

Second, and even if we were less confident that Ameri-Tex's filing with the City satisfied Section 101.101(a), it would not matter here because Leach filed his lawsuit four months after the incident. In Colquitt v. Brazoria County, 324 S.W.3d 539 (Tex. 2010), this Court addressed Section 101.101(a)'s notice requirement and held that a "lawsuit itself, served on the governmental unit within six months of the incident and containing all the requisite information, constitutes proper notice under the [Texas Tort...

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