Justices affirm immunity ruing in property destruction case against city of Beaumont

David Yates Jun. 2, 2011, 8:55am

Justices seated on the Texas Ninth Court of Appeals determined a local judge did not err in granting governmental immunity to the city of Beaumont in a property destruction case.

In April 2009, the Southeast Texas Record reported that Yvonne Como sued the city, claiming it demolished her funeral chapel, located at 1685 Park St. in Beaumont, in December 2007, even though the Jefferson County Appraisal District rated the building's condition as fair on April 30, 2007.

In response to the suit, the city filed a plea to the jurisdiction May 22, 2009, arguing Como failed to follow proper legal procedures in taking action against the city and that the statue of limitations had passed for suing a governmental entity.

Court records show Judge Bob Wortham, 58th District Court, dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction on April 5, 2010, forcing Como to file an appeal.

On appeal, Como argued that she maintains a viable claim against the city under the Texas Public Information Act, alleging that the city violated the act by failing to make public information available for her inspection.

On June 2 the Ninth Court issued an opinion, authored by Justice Hollis Horton, affirming the lower court's ruling to grant immunity.

"We hold that Como's Texas Public Information Act claim is moot, and that the trial court did not err in dismissing Como's remaining claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction," the opinion states.

"Accordingly, we modify the order to dismiss Como's Texas Public Information Act claim as moot. As modified, we affirm the judgment of the trial court."

According to the lawsuit, the JCAD appraised the value of the funeral chapel at $258,370. However, on May 29, 2007, Beaumont City Council issued an order condemning the building, saying it was a dangerous structure.

On Nov. 8, 2007, Beaumont awarded a contract for demolition and a demolition permit was issued on Dec. 4, 2007, Como claims.

In her suit, Como says she wrote to the city March 13, 2007, before demolition began, asking for public information related to the anticipated demolition, but the city declined to respond to her request.

The chapel was completely demolished by Jan. 30, 2008

Scott Newar of Houston represents Como.

Senior Assistance City Attorney Quentin Price represents the city.

Jefferson County District Court case number: A183-753.
Appeals case number: 09-10-000192

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