Texas Supreme Court holds Plaintiff’s employer properly filed notice of claim under city charter on behalf of employee

Leonarda Leach v City of Tyler, 21-0606 (Tex. September 16, 2022), per curiam.  

This is a Texas Tort Claims Act (“TTCA”) case where the Texas Supreme Court held the Plaintiff provided proper notice of claim to the City in order to waive immunity.  

 Leondra Leach, while working for his employer Ameri-Tex, 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 asserted in a summary judgment that Leach had failed to provide the City with timely notice of his claim. The TTCA requires notice of claim within one hundred eighty days of the injury. The City of Tyler’s charter requires notice of tort claims within thirty days. 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. The issue became whether the notice received from Ameri-Tex provided notice of claim as to Leach.   The trial court agreed and granted summary judgment in favor of the City; the court of appeals affirmed (summary found here). Leach appealed.  

While the Ameri-Tex notice of claim listed only itself as the claimant, the form clearly mentioned Leach, by name, and his purported injuries. It also summarized how the incident occurred. Notice of this sort satisfies the TTCA’s demand for basic information. Next, the City charter has its own notice requirements which the TTCA has “ratified and approved” through Section 101.101(a). Therefore, Leach must have also satisfied the 30-day requirement. Ameri-Tex’s notice identifies him in the description of the incident (not the claimant section) but provides the basic information needed for such notice of claim. The City’s point is that, even if Leach’s name appears in the “injuries sustained” section of the form, his name does not appear on the line denominated “Claimant.” The Court held “[t]he City could not reasonably conclude, however, that Ameri-Tex named Leach, provided Leach’s contact information, and detailed Leach’s injury for any reason other than to notify the City of that injury.” Further, while Ameri-Tex did not fill out the “form” provision which requires the anticipated value of the injuries, the charter is the law, not the form. The charter only requires the anticipated value of property damage, not personal injury. While the City points to the public policies behind requiring such information in the form, injured citizens are bound by enacted text, not underlying legislative motivations. The notice on behalf of Leach more than complies with the plain language of the statute and the city charter. As a result, the City’s motion should have been denied.  

If you would like to read this opinion, click here. Per curiam opinion. Docket page found here.  

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