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Gonzalez v. Heard, Goggan, Blair & Williams – Case Brief Summary (Texas)

In Gonzalez v. Heard, Goggan, Blair, & Williams, 923 S.W.2d 764, 765 (Tex. App-Corpus Christi 1996, writ denied), Cameron County, the City of Harlingen, and the Harlingen Independent School District employed a law firm to collect ad valorem taxes on their behalf.

The summary judgment evidence offered by the law firm consisted of copies of the contracts between the law firm and the city.

The court found that the law firm did not prevail on their theory of immunity because the firm failed to prove that the "taxing authorities had the right to control the details of the work or other criteria that would distinguish the relationship of employee from that of independent contractor." Gonzalez, 923 S.W.2d at 766.

The Court found that there was at the very least a question of fact as to the status of the appellee law firm, namely, whether or not the firm was an independent contractor or an agent-employee.

The Court found that the law firm did not establish as a matter of law that it was the agent of the taxing authorities and reversed the summary judgment granted in favor of the law firm. Id.

In Gonzalez v. Heard, Goggan, Blair & Williams, the Corpus Christi Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's rendition of summary judgment in favor of a law firm on the ground of sovereign immunity because it determined that the law firm had not presented adequate evidence to establish whether it was "an independent contractor or an agent/employee" of the taxing units. 923 S.W.2d at 766.

In Gonzalez, the court also noted that the firm was "sued for its own actions involving foreclosure on the Gonzalez' property, not the actions of the taxing entities." Id. at 767.