Texas Local Government Code Section 271.152 - Interpretation
In Ben Bolt-Palito Blanco Consol. Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Tex. Political Subdivisions Property Casualty Joint Self-Ins. Fund, 212 S.W.3d 320, 326-27 (Tex. 2006), the high court took an expansive view of section 271.152 in determining that in it the Legislature provided a clear and unambiguous waiver of the local governmental entity's immunity from suit as to the contract in question. See Ben Bolt, 212 S.W.3d at 326-27.
In that case, a school district filed a declaratory-judgment action against a self-insurance fund composed of ninety-two local governmental entities. See id. at 322.
The school district sought a declaration that a loss it had sustained was a "covered occurrence" under its insurance policy with the fund. See id. at 323. The fund asserted governmental immunity. See id.
After determining that the fund enjoyed governmental immunity in its own right, the Texas Supreme Court addressed whether, in section 271.152, the Legislature had waived the fund's immunity from suit as to the declaratory-judgment action in question. See id. at 327.
The fund asserted that the agreement at issue in the case-the insurance policy-did not involve the provision of goods or services to the fund because the school district was simply paying the fund for insurance coverage. See id. at 324-26.
Nonetheless, the Ben Bolt court rejected this argument based on the fund's admission that its members, including the school district in question, elect a governing board, a subcommittee of which resolves claims disputes. See id.
The Ben Bolt court concluded that, by participating in the election of the fund's governing board, the school district provided services to the fund, and the high court found that this provision of services satisfied the statutory requirement of "a written contract stating the essential terms of the agreement for providing goods or services to the local governmental entity." See id. T
he Ben Bolt court reached this conclusion without requiring that this provision of services by the members of the fund be stated in the agreement (the insurance policy). Even though the essence of the agreement (insurance policy) appeared to be an insurance transaction in which the only thing provided to the fund was money, the Ben Bolt court concluded that the agreement fell within the scope of the statutory language because the school district was a member of the fund and the fund's members elected the fund's governing board.
The Ben Bolt court acknowledged that, under section 271.152, the Legislature has not waived immunity as to all contracts entered into by local governmental entities; rather, it has waived immunity as to written contracts "stating the essential terms of the agreement for providing goods or services to the local governmental entity that [are] properly executed on behalf of the local governmental entity." TEX. LOC. GOV'T CODE 271.151(2); Ben Bolt, 212 S.W.3d at 326-27.
Nonetheless, the Ben Bolt court broadly construed the meaning of this statutory language. See Ben Bolt, 212 S.W.3d at 326-27.