St. Mary's Law Journal


Lasca A. Arnold


While the shale boom has brought about many positive results such as economic growth and new jobs to the Eagle Ford Shale region, the ravaged roadways left in the aftermath must be addressed. The demands for equipment and manpower created by oil and gas exploration are extensive. Sadly, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)—the entity charged with maintaining and repairing roads in these affected counties—refuses to supply sufficient funding to repair the over used roadways. This pressure is exerted in rural areas where most of the roads and bridges are designed for lower volumes of traffic. In addition to the increased volume of traffic, vehicles carrying oversized and overweight loads add to the severity of the damage to roadways and create dangerous driving conditions. A legal issue underlies the mounting, unrepaired road damage stemming from TxDOT’s limited response and handling of the damage. The question is whether TxDOT is liable for the traffic accidents occurring on its unrepaired roadways. Sovereign immunity may exempt TxDOT from civil suits. Nevertheless, under the Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA) sovereign immunity may be waived and claims of premise defects, premises liability, and special defects may be brought. Some of the damaged roadways may only meet a premise defect level of duty, but many other areas of the Eagle Ford Shale region sustain such severe damage as to meet conditions constituting a special defect. TxDOT faces an increased number of special defect claims if it does not take the necessary and corrective action to repair and maintain the state highway system.


St. Mary's University School of Law