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.

TTCA Notice – Reversed and Rendered

  • Texas Dep’t of Criminal Justice v. Cisneros
    • 09-17-00161-CV, 2018 WL 1095533
    • 88th District Court of Tyler County
    • Justice Kreger, Mar. 1, 2018
  • While incarcerated by the TDCJ, Cisneros suffered an injury by a woodworking saw and sued the TDCJ for negligence. In response, the TDCJ filed a plea to the jurisdiction on the basis that Cisneros failed to file a notice of his claim within statutory deadlines. Cisneros, on the other hand, argued that the TDCJ’s own incident report put the TDCJ on actual notice of the claim and formal written notice was not needed. The trial court denied  TDCJ’s plea to the jurisdiction.
  • The Ninth Court held that for TDCJ to have actual knowledge, it must have: (1) knowledge of the injury; (2) subjective awareness of it’s alleged fault producing or contributing to the injury; and (3) knowledge of the identity of the person involved.  Subjective awareness is required, the Ninth Court noted, otherwise the TDCJ does not have the same incentive to gather the information that the statute is designed to provide. The Ninth Court noted that “fault”, as regards actual notice, is not synonymous with “liability”; rather, it implies responsibility for the injury claimed.
  • In this case, the results of TDCJ’s investigation indicated that Cisneros, not TDCJ, was responsible for the accident. Therefore, the TDCJ was not shown to have subjective awareness of any fault of its own in producing Cisneros’ injuries or otherwise found to have sufficient notice.
  • The Ninth Court reversed the trial court’s order denying the plea to the jurisdiction, and rendered judgment dismissing Cisneros’ claims.