And the loophole has already been found …

Archer v. TDCJ-ID, et al. (Published Memo): On January 9, 2008, the Tyler court issued the Crosby decision.  It held that inmate civil right suits could be dismissed without a hearing if the inmate’s pleadings don’t comply with Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Chapter 14.  This case shows that Crosby doesn’t apply to suits against prison officials in their individual capacity.

Archer is an inmate at the Powledge unit in Palestine, Texas. He got burned when attempts to start a diesel engine went awry. He had been working on the engine at the direction of TDCJ-ID employees. He filed suit against TDCJ-ID, as well as the individual employees.

The Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code imposes procedural requirements on inmates filing civil rights claims against the State. For one thing, the prisoner has to exhaust administrative appeals within the prison. Archer did not do that here. Consequently, his claims against the State were rightly dismissed by the trial court.

But Archer had sued the employees, too.

The Texas Tort Claims Act waives sovereign immunity for claims involving the use of a motor vehicle. Since that’s how Archer got his burns, his claims against the individual employees could proceed. What’s more, the administrative grievance process within the prison only covers claims against the prison itself, not the prison’s employees. It was an abuse of discretion to dismiss those claims for failing to comply with the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code.

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