MANDATORY VENUE UNDER TORT CLAIMS ACT MAY BE ASSERTED BY NON-GOVERNMENTAL PARTY EVEN IF GOVERNMENTAL PARTY DOES NOT

In re Hubbard
Dallas Court of Appeals, No. 05-14-00608-CV (August 19, 2014)
Justices Bridges, Lang-Miers, and Myers (Opinion)
On a freeway in Denton County, Rutherford, an employee of the Celina Independent School District, collided with a tractor-trailer driven by Hubbard, which then struck the car of Greg and Christine White. The Whites sued Rutherford, Hubbard, and Hubbard’s employer in Dallas County, later substituting Celina ISD for Rutherford. Hubbard and his employer moved to transfer venue to Denton County because Celina ISD is a “governmental unit” under the Texas Tort Claims Act, and a suit filed under that act must be brought in the county in which the cause of action arose. Neither the school district nor Rutherford moved for a transfer. When the trial court denied Hubbard’s motion, the Dallas Court of Appeals conditionally granted mandamus, directing the trial court to grant the transfer, in accordance with the mandatory venue provision of the Tort Claims Act. The Court rejected the Whites’ argument that Hubbard and his employer, as non-governmental third parties, had no standing to assert that mandatory venue provision. And it found it immaterial that Celina ISD had not done so, dismissing the Whites’ contentions that the school district had waived mandatory venue and that it alone had the right to make the tactical choice whether to enforce the venue provision. In so doing, the Court expressly declined to follow contrary authority from the First District Court of Appeals in Nissen Corp. v. Layman.

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