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.

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.

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.

University Immunity – Reversed and Rendered

  • Lamar University v. Jenkins
    • No. 09–17–00213–CV, 2018 WL 358960
    • 172nd District Court of Jefferson County
    • Chief Justice McKeithen, Jan. 11 2018
  • Dr. Steve Jenkins sued Lamar alleging that it had retaliated against him under the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (TCHRA) by denying his application for Full Professor with tenure status due to his opposition against using the GRE as a criteria for admission, which he contended was an inherently racist test.
  • In response, Lamar University filed a plea to the jurisdiction on the basis of sovereign immunity.
  • The Ninth Court held that under the TCHRA, Dr. Jenkins had to demonstrate a good faith, reasonable belief that the University engaged in an unlawful employment practice. Based upon the pleadings, Dr. Jenkins could not show that Lamar’s use of the GRE as admission criteria gave him a good faith, reasonable belief of an unlawful employment practice. The Ninth Court reversed the trial court’s denial of Lamar’s plea to the jurisdiction and rendered judgment dismissing the claims against it.