The State knows when it knows it knows.

TxDOT v. Anderson et al. (Published): To show that the State of Texas had actual notice of a claim, you’ve got to put your hands on State documents showing that the State was aware of its fault within six months of the event.

When should the State of Texas have to bother itself with investigating a potential claim?  If it’s your claim, you’d say the answer is “always.”  But let’s be real.  Nothing would ever get done if the State of Texas really had to investigate its culpability every time something bad happened on State property.  So there’s got to be line drawn somewhere.’

First, the easy part.  The Tort Claims Act says that parties must give the State written notice of their claim within six months of the event complained of. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 101.101.  See, there’s a nice, easy to figure out line.  Either there’s a letter in the file or there isn’t.

Now the hard part.  If the claimant doesn’t send the letter in time, they still have the sovereign’s permission to sue the sovereign as long as the sovereign had “actual notice” of the claim. Id.  As interpreted by the Texas Supreme Court, that means the State of Texas must have “subjective awareness of its fault” in the matter. Tex. Dep’t of Criminal Justice v. Simons, 140 S.W.3d 338, 347 (Tex. 2004).

So, does that put the courts in the position of trying to read the mind of the State of Texas?  No.  It’s not a matter of reading the State’s mind.  It’s a matter of looking at the evidence to see if the State, out of its own mouth, has shared its thoughts on the subject.

The facts of the case are sobering …Continue Reading…

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