The Resurgence of Sovereign Immunity and Its Assertion by Texas Cities and School Districts to Avoid Contractual Obligations
Matheny, Timothy D.
Lugger, Eric C.
Beshara, Matthew D.
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This article addresses the recent decision in Satterfield & Pontikes Construction, Inc. v. Irving School District, and the inconsistencies in the application of the law that it led to. It focuses on the assertions of sovereign immunity in contract disputes with cities and school districts. It begins by explaining the doctrine of sovereign immunity, and the differences in how that doctrine is applied to tort claims and contract claims. This article explains there is a conflict among the court of appeals regarding whether the use of phrases sue and be sued and plead and be impleaded in the enabling statutes of various governmental entities, such as a municipality or a school district, constitutes a waiver of the entity’s governmental immunity from suit. It suggests that contractors, vendors, and employees need to contemplate the large risks of entering into contracts with a Texas public entity. Lastly, this article addresses how Senate Bill 1017 resolves the sovereign immunity issues in county contracts, and how Missouri Pacific is ripe for affirmation.