Exclusive Remedy Defense – Affirmed

  • Trahan v. Premcor
    • 09-17-00005-CV, 2018 WL 3887634
    • 58th District Court of Jefferson County
    • Justice Kreger, Aug. 16, 2018
  • Trahan sustained on-the-job injury at the Valero Port Arthur facility and sued Premcor.
  • Premcor filed a motion for summary judgment based on the exclusive remedy provisions under Texas Workers’ Compensation Act. Trahan argued that she was an employee of Valero, not Premcor, and that Premcor did not have workers’ compensation insurance in its own name.
  • In conjunction with the TWCA’s definition of “employer,” the Ninth Court observed that Premcor is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Valero Energy Corporation, a holding company with no employees; Valero Services, Inc. is another wholly-owned subsidiary of Valero Energy Corporation that provides payroll services to Premcor; and that Premcor owns and operates the Valero Port Arthur Refinery. Thus, the Court held that Premcor is an employer under the TWCA.
  • Valero produced workers’ compensation coverage for entities under its umbrella, including its subsidiaries. Therefore, Premcor was entitled to the exclusive remedy defense under the TWCA.

Chapter 74 Expert Reports – Affirmed

  • Ahmed and Diagnostic Group v. Murphy
    • 09-18-00105-CV, 2018 WL 3911036
    • 58th District Court of Jefferson County
    • Justice Horton, Aug. 16, 2018
  • Murphy sued Dr. Raees Ahmed and the Diagnostic Group for an alleged failure to properly diagnose and treat a heart failure. Murphy asserted a healthcare liability claim under the Texas Medical Liability Act.
  • Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that Murphy’s Chapter 74 expert reports were conclusory and failed to sufficiently demonstrate causation. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss.
  • The Ninth Court held that the reports contained adequate explanations and causal links to meet the minimum standards of Chapter 74 of the Texas Practice and Remedies Code.

Unrelated to Jurisdiction – Pet. Granted

  • In re Lamar University
    • 091800241CV, 2018 WL 3911062
    • 60th District of Jefferson County
    • Per Curiam, Aug. 16, 2018
  • The real parties in interest, coaches of Lamar University’s softball team, filed a lawsuit against the University alleging a failure to follow Lamar’s policies with respect to grievances and appeals of their employment termination.
  • Real parties filed a temporary restraining order against the University to prohibit Lamar from taking any further action under Texas State University Rules and a mandatory permanent injunction to compel Lamar to follow its Human Resources policy manual.
  • Relators filed a plea to the jurisdiction, alleging that as at-will employees, the real parties had not right to a grievance or appeal of their employment termination, as well as failure to plead a valid cause of action due to the defense of sovereign immunity.
  • In response, real parties requested a continuance on the plea to the jurisdiction until they could conduct discovery and develop their case.
  • The trial court granted the TRO, and without ruling on the plea to the jurisdiction, the trial court granted the request for expedited discovery.
  • The Ninth Court held that though trial courts have discretion to permit limited discovery on jurisdictional issues, the requested discovery in this case was unrelated to the jurisdictional issue before the trial court. Thus, the trial court abused its discretion by ordering expedited discovery on matter unrelated to jurisdiction. The trial court is to vacate its order granting expedited discovery and rule on the plea to the jurisdiction.

Adequate Relief – Pet. Denied

  • In re Oxbow Calcining LLC
    • 09-18-00273-CV, 2018 WL 3763441
    • 172nd District
    • Per Curiam, Aug. 9, 2018
  • PASE filed a petition and application for post-judgment turnover proceeding; Oxbow filed a motion to transfer venue to Harris County and compel the dispute to arbitration, as well as a motion to quash the hearing. Oxbow argued that the motion to transfer and motion to compel should be decided first. The trial court denied the motion to quash.
  • Oxbow contends it lacks an adequate remedy by appeal because the order effectively deprives Oxbow of its contractual right to arbitration and severely compromises its ability to present its defense at the hearing on PASE’s application for a turnover order.
  • The Ninth Court held that Oxbow had an adequate remedy by appeal because any order from a hearing on an application for turnover is appealable.

Against the County – Reversed and Rendered

  • Jefferson County v. Jackson
    • 09-17-00197-CV, 2018 WL 3580858
    • 172nd District Court of Jefferson County
    • Justice Horton, July 26, 2018
  • Jefferson County filed a plea to the jurisdiction against an employee discrimination suit filed by Jackson. The suit included claims under the Whistleblower Act and the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act. The trial court denied the plea.
  • The Ninth Court held that despite multiple re-pleadings of various claims, Jackson failed to present any evidence that the trial court could exercise jurisdiction over her case and overcome governmental immunity. Governmental immunity protects political subdivisions of the state, including counties, from lawsuits. The Court rendered judgment granting the plea and ordered the suit dismissed with prejudice.

Trespass-to-Try-Title Action – Reversed and Rendered

  • Lackey v. Templeton
    • 09-17-00183-CV, 2018 WL 3384570
    • 1A District Court of Jasper County
    • Justice McKeithen, July 12 2018
  • Templeton sough declaratory judgment for 100% ownership to the mineral estate of two tracts of land. Multiple parties involved.
  • Defendants filed an answer and special exceptions complaining that Templetons brought the wrong cause of action to obtain determination of tile; rather, Templetons should have pled the case as a trespass-to-try-title. Each side filed a motion for summary judgment.
  • The trial court granted partial summary judgment to Templetons.
  • By looking to the Declaratory Judgments Act, the Texas Property Code, and recent Supreme Court precedent, the Ninth Court held that a dispute involving a claim of superior title must be brought as a trespass-to-try-title action. Lance v. Robinson, 543 S.W.3d 723, 735-36 (Tex. 2018). The underlying nature of the suit is not altered by couching request relief as declaratory. Templetons were required to plead and prove a trespass-to-try-title claim. All trial court orders on summary judgments were reversed; plaintiffs take nothing.

Chapter 74 Expert Reports – Affirmed

  • Golden Years Assisted Living v. Richard
    • 09-17-00251-CV, 2018 WL 3384500
    • 128th District Court of Orange County
    • Justice Johnson, July 12, 2018
  • Priscilla alleges negligent care or treatment of her husband after being admitted to Golden Years and New Century Hospice.
  • To support her case, Plaintiff provided expert reports of a registered nurse and a plastic surgeon. Defendants filed motion to dismiss for failure to file adequate expert reports under Chapter 74 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code for healthcare liability claims, claiming that the reports were conclusory as to causation.
  • In response, Plaintiffs argued that causation was adequately addressed and the reports met the requirements of Chapter 74. Addendum reports were filed to supplement standards of case, after which Defendants filed a second motion to dismiss.
  • The Ninth Court held that when evaluating a report under Chapter 74, the report must demonstrate causation only beyond mere conjecture. The reports provided a basis for the trial court to concluded that the threshold requirements of Chapter 74 were met and the Plaintiff’s claim asserted a viable liability theory with merit. No abuse of discretion.

Anders Brief Denied – Affirmed

  • In the Interest of D.F. and A.F.
    • 091800043CV, 2018 WL 3384505
    • 1st District Court of Jasper
    • Justice Johnson, July 12, 2018
  • Parents of the children appeal from an order terminating parental rights. Appellants’ court-appointed counsel submitted a brief contending that there are no meritorious ground to be advanced on appeal and filed a motion to withdraw as counsel.
  • The Ninth Court agreed that any appeal would be frivolous but denied the motion to withdraw because an attorney’s duty extends through the exhaustion or waiver of all appeals, including an appeal to the Supreme Court of Texas.

Child Custody and Support – Affirmed

  • In the Interest of LJF
    • 09-17-00151-CV, 2018 WL 3384501
    • 279th District Court of Jefferson County
    • Justice McKeithen, July 12, 2018
  • F. argued trial court abused discretion in its award of retroactive child support. F. also complained that the trial court abused its discretion by ordering that X could determine the child’s primary residence without any geographic restriction.
  • Ninth Court held that there was some evidence to support the trial court’s award and application of the child support guidelines. Further, the Ninth Court held that the best interest of the child was considered and the trial court did not abuse its discretion by waiving geographical restrictions.

Mailbox Rule – Reversed and Remanded

  • Martin v. Jasper Independent School District
    • 09–17–00195–CV, 2018 WL 2974490
    • 1st District Court of Jasper County
    • Justice McKeithen, June 14, 2018
  • Martin filed a suit against Jasper Independent School District for employment discrimination. JISD responded with a plea to the jurisdiction and argued that the petition was not timely filed.
  • On July 28, 2016, the Texas Workforce Commission sent a letter to Martin advising her of the right to sue JISD within sixty days. Martin received the letter on August 2, 2016 and filed her suit on October 3, 2016. JISD argued that the mailbox rule provides an additional three days after a notice has been deposited in the mail, making the receipt July 31; thus, the deadline for filing suit was September 29th.
  • The Ninth Court held that Texas Labor Code Section 21.254 time limits are triggered by actual receipt and not constructive receipt, and under Rule 4 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, Martin’s petition was timely filed by October 3rd. The trial court erred by impliedly applying the mailbox rule.