Under TTCA, the integral safety component doctrine turns on entity negligently providing personal property missing an integral safety component, not the non-use of property.

City of Houston v. Frank Gutkowski, Individually, Frank Gutkowski, as Representative for the Estate of Patricia Gutkowski, Deceased, Tammie Rene Gutkowski and Carl Gutkowski  14-17-00234-CV  (Tex. App—— Houston [14th Dist.], October 17, 2017)

This is an interlocutory appeal from the denial of a plea to the jurisdiction involving a Texas Tort Claims Act (“TTCA”) claim. The Fourteenth Court of Appeals reversed the denial and dismissed the Plaintiff’s claims.

Patricia Gutkowski fell out of bed and was unable to move. Her family called 9-1-1 which dispatched Houston Fire Fighters to the scene. Upon arrival, the family of Patricia Gutkowski alleged HFD personnel did not have a portable lifting device, lift board, or lift sling.  As a result, HFD personnel were unable to place Gutkowski in a proper position for lifting resulting in an injury and laceration to her leg. The laceration caused significant blood loss which allegedly caused a heart attack later that day. The Gutkowski family sued the City, which filed a plea to the jurisdiction. The trial court denied the plea and the City appealed.

The court first analyzed the pleadings and evidence and determined the Gutkowski’s claim relating to property lacking an integral safety component was actually a claim for the non-use of personal property in disguise.  While the Gutkowski family alleged the emergency service vehicle was tangible personal property lacking an integral safety component of a lifting device, they did not allege the vehicle was improperly used. They only alleged it did not have something HFD personnel should have used in the bedroom. Further, the integral safety component doctrine is limited to and turns on the governmental entity negligently providing personal property missing an integral safety component, not the non-use of certain medical equipment over others. Further, the allegation HFD personnel negligently wrapped the laceration with tangible supplies is insufficient to trigger a waiver of immunity. It is not enough that some property is involved; the use of that property must have actually caused the injury.  Here, that is not the case. As a result, the plea should have been granted.

If you want to read this opinion click here. The panel consists of Justice Christopher, Justices, Brown, and Wise. Justice Wise delivered the opinion of the court. To see the attorneys listed for the Appellant and Appellee’s click here.