BEAUMONT – Justices on the Ninth Court of Appeals have determined the Port of Beaumont Navigation District of Jefferson County has governmental immunity from an injury suit, dismissing most of the claims but allowing the plaintiff to re-plead one.
The suit stems from litigation brought by Kirk Howard McCarty, who named the Port of Beaumont as a defendant in an amended petition.
McCarty claims he was injured on Oct. 15, 2014, when he drove across a railroad track owned and controlled by co-defendant Gerdau Ameristeel and was struck by a train operated by the company’s employees.
Gerdau owns property in Orange County that is adjacent to the Port’s property. The two parties entered into an easement agreement for rail access, court records show.
In his amended petition, McCarty alleged an unreasonably dangerous condition existed on the Port’s roadway easement.
In response, the Port filed a plea to the jurisdiction, asserting governmental immunity, court records show.
A hearing on the matter was held on Sept. 15, 2016, in Judge Kent Walston’s 58th District Court.
According to the Port’s appellate brief, Judge Walston agreed with the Port that McCarty failed to show a special defect existed, but orally denied its plea and entered a written order nearly two weeks later, prompting the Port to file its appeal.
“Appellee failed to demonstrate that his lawsuit against the Port of Beaumont is permitted by the Texas Tort Claims Act,” states the Port’s brief.
“Appellee attempts to make the illogical factual conclusion that a train moving across a set of railroad tracks is a special defect because it impedes or hinders travelers on the roadway. However, Appellee cannot cite to any similar cases to the case at bar holding a train can be a special defect.”
On March 23, justices reversed the trial court’s ruling denying the Port’s plea on McCarty’s inadequate-lighting-premises-defect claim and remanded the case, allowing McCarty the opportunity to re-plead solely with respect to that claim.
“We reverse and render judgment dismissing all of McCarty’s remaining claims with prejudice against the Port because the trial court does not have jurisdiction over them,” the opinion states.
Germer PLLC attorneys Guy Goodson, Toby Nash and Kate Leverett represent the Port.
Trial court case No. A197-282
Appeals case No. 09-16-00356-CV