Appellate justices grant planning commission governmental immunity

David Yates Jan. 22, 2015, 1:35pm


On Thursday, justices seated on the Ninth Court of Appeals reversed and remanded a Beaumont judge’s decision denying the South East Texas Regional Planning Commission governmental immunity.

The litigation stems from a suit brought by Byrdson Services, doing business as Excello Construction. The company sued SETRPC and several other defendants in 2013, alleging breach of contract for work centered on repairing homes damaged by Hurricane Ike.

Court records show the homes were repaired through a program funded by the federal government and administered by the states affected by the hurricane. Byrdson claimed the commission had not fully compensated the company for work performed.

In order to skirt the issue of governmental immunity, in its suit Byrdson alleged the legislature had waived the commission’s immunity for breach of contract claims.

The commission countered by filing a plea to the jurisdiction, which was denied by Judge Gary Sanderson, 60th District Court, prompting the appeal, court records show.

Ninth Court justices found the trial court “should have granted the Planning Commission’s plea,” according to the court’s Jan. 22 opinion, authored by Justice Hollis Horton.

“When reversing a trial court’s decision, we are required to render the judgment the trial court should have rendered,” the opinion states. “We hold the trial court did not have jurisdiction over the claims that Byrdson asserted in its Fourth Amended Petition against the Planning Commission. We reverse the trial court’s order denying the Planning Commission’s plea, and we render judgment dismissing the Planning Commission from the case.”

On appeal, the commission had argued Byrdson had not established that is claims fall under the legislature’s waiver of immunity in the Texas Tort Claims Act, appellate briefs show.

The commission is represented in part by Moore Landrey attorney Jon Burmeister.

Houston attorneys Ronald Bair and Richard Griffin Jr. of Bairhilty P.C. represent Byrdson.

Appeals case No. 09-14-00198-CV

Trial case No. B194-446

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