Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Harris County Sovereign Immunity Case Heard by Supreme Court Today

December 4, 2007. Texas Supreme Court hears oral argument in an imporant sovereign immunity case involving local hospital district. Harris County Hospital District v. Tomball Regional Hospital, No. 05-0986) (Tex. 200_) (e-briefs)

Opinion below: Tomball Hospital Authority v. Harris County Hospital District, 178 S.W.3d 244 (Tex. App. - Houston [14th Dist.] July 28, 2005, pet. filed)(Opinion by Justice Harvey Hudson)
Subsequent History: The Fourteenth Court of Appeals' construction of sue-and-be-sued clause as a clear waiver of sovereign immunity was rejected by the Texas Supreme Court in Tooke v. City of Mexia, No. 03-0878 (Tex. June 30, 2006), which established new controlling precedent on the statutory waiver issue.

View --> Oral Argument in Harris County Hospital District v. Tomball Hospital District on St. Mary's University's web site
For Petitioner: Ms. Sandra Hachem (Harris County Attorney), from Houston.
For Respondent: Mr. Randal L. Payne (Sullins, Johnston, Rohrbach & Magers), from Houston.

Case summary provided by Supreme Court staff attorney:

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the issue of whether the immunity issue for hospital district sued for reimbursement by hospital authority. The issue is whether the Harris County Hospital District is immune from the Tomball hospital’s suit seeking compensation because it allegedly treated indigent patients that Harris County should have under state law. Tomball sued to be reimbursed for care given to Harris County patients that Tomball alleges were turned away from Harris County hospitals or referred by those hospitals to Tomball’s. Harris County claims in part that it is exempt from paying other hospitals for treating patients eligible for free care under the Indigent Health Care and Treatment Act. The trial court dismissed Tomball’s suit on Harris County’s jurisdictional plea. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the statute’s language that a hospital district could “sue and be sued” was an unambiguous immunity waiver.
Link to Appellate briefs in Harris County Hospital District v. Tomball Regional Hospital
Link to Court of appeals opinion on 14th Court of Appeals web site

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