Negligent maintenance of school bus is not negligent operation or use of bus for immunity purposes says 4th Court of Appeals

 

San Antonio Independent School District v. Maria Hale, et al.  04-18-00102-CV (Tex. App. – San Antonio, June 27, 2018)

This is a Texas Tort Claims Act (“TTCA”)/bus accident case were the San Antonio Court of Appeals reversed the denial of the San Antonio Independent School District’s plea to the jurisdiction.

Hales son was riding on the bus when the rear exit door opened, and he fell out. He sustained a traumatic brain injury. Hale alleges the accident was caused by a defect in the rear exit door’s latching mechanism that caused the door to open while the school bus was in motion. In addition to suing the designers and manufacturers of the school bus, Hale sued the school district. The district filed a plea to the jurisdiction, which was denied. The district appealed.

The mere involvement or proximity of a school bus to injury does not mean the injury arises from the use or operation of the bus. When an injury occurs on a school bus but does not arise out of the use or operation of the bus, and the bus is only the setting for the injury, immunity for liability is not waived. Hale does not allege any affirmative acts or omissions by the bus driver, nor does she allege the bus driver’s actions or inaction caused the injury. Hale does not allege the school bus driver negligently or otherwise improperly operated or used the school bus.  accepting Hale’s allegations as true, such negligence relates to the maintenance of the school bus. However, even if the district was negligent in maintaining the school bus, maintenance is not “operation or use” of the school bus.  The plea should have been granted.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. Panel consists of Chief Justice Marion, Justice Barnard and Justice Alvarez. Memorandum Opinion by Chief Justice Marion.  The attorneys listed for Hale are Joseph M. Dunn and Manuel C. Maltos.  The attorney listed for the school district is Dan Calvin Kelley