Minor harmed after being thrown forward when bus driver had to stop suddenly qualifies under TTCA immunity waiver

 Arlington Independent School District v. T.P. as next friend of R.T., a minor,02-16-00249-CV (Tex.App— Fort Worth , February 9,2017)

This is a Texas Tort Claims Act vehicle accident case involving a school bus and a minor where the Fort Worth Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of the District’s plea to the jurisdiction.

R.T. (minor) was standing in the aisle of a school bus that was traveling at approximately five miles per hour when the driver suddenly applied the brakes to avoid colliding with another bus. R.T. was thrown forward and injured. The parent/guardian (“T.P”)sued on behalf of the minor. The Arlington Independent School District (“AISD”) filed a plea to the jurisdiction and motion for summary judgment, which the trial court denied. AISD appealed.

To demonstrate a waiver under this part of the TTCA, a plaintiff must show a nexus between the operation or use of the motor-driven vehicle and the plaintiff’s injuries. This nexus requires more than mere involvement of property; rather, the vehicle’s operation or use must have actually caused the injury.  The problem “with AISD’s approach is that, contrary to the standard of review, it strictly construes T.P.’s pleadings and disregards her overall intent instead of liberally construing T.P.’s pleadings with an eye toward her intent.” The pleadings and evidence show R.T. was thrown forward due to the bus driver having to apply the brakes suddenly. This is the operation and use of a motor vehicle and the bus did more than merely furnish the condition or location of the injury. The plea was properly denied.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. The Panel includes Justice Walker, Justice Meier, and visiting Justice FitzGerald. Justice Meier delivered the opinion of the court. Attorney for the Appellant: Paul K. Pearce Jr.  Attorney for the Appellee: David S. Kohm.