|Office of the Attorney General - State of Texas
April 5, 2000
Ms. Lisa Aguilar
Dear Ms. Aguilar:
You ask whether certain information is subject to required public disclosure under chapter 552 of the Government Code. Your request was assigned ID# 134044.
The City of Corpus Christi (the "city") received a request for information related to a particular lawsuit. You indicate that you have already released responsive information to the requestor. You claim that the remaining information is excepted from disclosure under section 552.103 of the Government Code. We have considered the exception you claim and have reviewed the submitted information.
To show that section 552.103 is applicable, the city must demonstrate that 1) litigation is pending or reasonably anticipated and 2) the information at issue is related to that litigation. Heard v. Houston Post Co., 684 S.W.2d 210, 212 (Tex. App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 1984, writ ref'd n.r.e.); Open Records Decision No. 551 at 4 (1990). Section 552.103 requires concrete evidence that litigation may ensue. To demonstrate that litigation is reasonably anticipated, the department must furnish evidence that litigation is realistically contemplated and is more than mere conjecture. Open Records Decision No. 518 at 5 (1989). Whether litigation is reasonably anticipated must be determined on a case-by-case basis. Open Records Decision No. 452 at 4 (1986). A governmental body may establish that litigation is reasonably anticipated by showing that 1) it has received a claim letter from an allegedly injured party or his attorney and 2) the governmental body states that the letter complies with the notice of claim provisions of the Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA) or applicable municipal statute or ordinance. Open Records Decision No. 638 (1996).
You have submitted a notice of claim letter which you state complies with the notice requirements of the TTCA and the city charter and applicable city ordinance. The claim letter asserts that the city marina and a private roofing company are responsible for property damage to the claimant's boat. Further, the information on its face shows that the date of the property loss was August 1, 1997. The statute of limitations for bringing a cause of action for property damage is two years. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 16.003. The statute of limitations had already expired on the date the city received the request for information. See Gov't Code § 552.103(c). It does not appear that a lawsuit was brought against the city prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations. Therefore, we conclude that you have not shown that litigation is reasonably anticipated or pending. Therefore, you may not withhold the information under section 552.103 of the Government Code. You must release the information to the requestor.
This letter ruling is limited to the particular records at issue in this request and limited to the facts as presented to us; therefore, this ruling must not be relied upon as a previous determination regarding any other records or any other circumstances.
This ruling triggers important deadlines regarding the rights and responsibilities of the governmental body and of the requestor. For example, governmental bodies are prohibited from asking the attorney general to reconsider this ruling. Gov't Code § 552.301(f). If the governmental body wants to challenge this ruling, the governmental body must appeal by filing suit in Travis County within 30 calendar days. Id. § 552.324(b). In order to get the full benefit of such an appeal, the governmental body must file suit within 10 calendar days. Id. § 552.353(b)(3), (c). If the governmental body does not appeal this ruling and the governmental body does not comply with it, then both the requestor and the attorney general have the right to file suit against the governmental body to enforce this ruling. Id. § 552.321(a).
If this ruling requires the governmental body to release all or part of the requested information, the governmental body is responsible for taking the next step. Based on the statute, the attorney general expects that, within 10 calendar days of this ruling, the governmental body will do one of the following three things: 1) release the public records; 2) notify the requestor of the exact day, time, and place that copies of the records will be provided or that the records can be inspected; or 3) notify the requestor of the governmental body's intent to challenge this letter ruling in court. If the governmental body fails to do one of these three things within 10 calendar days of this ruling, then the requestor should report that failure to the attorney general's Open Government Hotline, toll free, at 877/673-6839. The requestor may also file a complaint with the district or county attorney. Id. § 552.3215(e).
If this ruling requires or permits the governmental body to withhold all or some of the requested information, the requestor can appeal that decision by suing the governmental body. Id. § 552.321(a); Texas Department of Public Safety v. Gilbreath, 842 S.W.2d 408, 411 (Tex. App.-Austin 1992, no writ).
If the governmental body, the requestor, or any other person has questions or comments about this ruling, they may contact our office. Although there is no statutory deadline for contacting us, the attorney general prefers to receive any comments within 10 calendar days of the date of this ruling.
Carla Gay Dickson
Ref: ID# 134044
Encl. Submitted documents
cc: Ms. Mary A. Goldsmith
POST OFFICE BOX 12548, AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711-2548 TEL: (512) 463-2100 WEB: WWW.OAG.STATE.TX.US