Trial court properly denied plea in vehicle accident case since City officer saw Plaintiff rubbing his back noting he had “a slight pain”

 City of San Antonio v. Carlos Mendoza 04-17-00168-CV (Tex.App— San Antonio, September 13, 2017)

This is a Texas Tort Claims Act (“TTCA”) case involving the alleged negligent operation or use of a motor vehicle in which the San Antonio Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of the City’s plea to the jurisdiction.

Officer Gonzales, an on-duty San Antonio City Park Police Officer rear-ended a van driven by Carlos Mendoza. Gonzales’s supervisor, Fidencio Herrera, arrived at the scene to investigate and spoke to Gonzales and Mendoza. Herrera prepared investigative reports concerning the accident. Over a year later, Mendoza sued under the TTCA and alleged the City was provided actual notice of its fault in the accident. The City filed a plea to the jurisdiction which was denied. The City appealed.

The sole issue on appeal was whether the City had actual notice that Mendoza was injured as a result of the accident. It was undisputed the reports satisfied all other requirements of the actual notice provisions. Mendoza did not request medical attention at the scene. To establish knowledge of an injury, it is not necessary that the governmental unit be absolutely certain of the nature and extent of the injury. At the scene, Gonzales asked Mendoza if he was “ok” and Mendoza responded, “I got a slight pain” and began rubbing his back and stretching down.  Gonzales did not reference the comment in his reports. Neither did Herrera.  The City argued either Gonzales did not hear Mendoza or interpreted them to mean he was not injured. However, the court held, under the standard of review, it must presume the facts which support the trial court order, which was a denial. The City next argued Mendoza’s statements were “too vague and indefinite” to provide the City with actual notice of his alleged injuries. However, Mendoza did more than simply state he had a slight pain; he rubbed his back and stretched downward to stretch his back. As a result, there was evidence to support the trial court’s implied finding that the City had knowledge of Mendoza’s injury, requiring a denial of the plea.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. The panel consists of Justices Angelini, Chapa, and Rios. Justice Angelini delivered the opinion of the court. Attorneys listed for the Appellant are Nathan Mark Ralls and James Leech Jr.   Attorneys listed for the Appellee are Shannon Kathleen Dunn, Beth Watkins, Stephanie De Sola, Nadine Rodriguez, and Fidel Rodriguez Jr.

 

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