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.

Certificate of Merit – Reversed and Remanded

  • Barron, Stark & Swift et al. v. First Baptist Church, Vidor, Texas
    • 09-17-00470-CV, 2018 WL 2246571
    • 128th District Court of Orange County
    • Justice Kreger, May 17, 2018
  • First Baptist Church of Vidor hired Appellants for a large renovation project; water intrusion problems arose and mold resulted. First Baptist filed a petition alleging multiple construction claims against the Appellants but failed to include certificates of merit required under section 150.002 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. Once Appellants filed a motion to dismiss, First Baptist amended its claims to include certificates of merit. Appellants argued that the certificates of merit were untimely and that First Baptist was not entitled to an extension per the statute.
  • The trial court denied the motion to dismiss.
  • The Ninth Court held that per the statute’s language, a claim that fails to file a certificate of merit as prescribed results in a complete dismissal against the defendant unless the plaintiff qualifies for an extension. First Baptist failed to meet the prerequisites for an extension; thus, the certificate of merit was untimely, and the trial court abused its discretion.

Arbitration – Reverse and Remanded

  • The Sinclair Group, LTD. v. Haggblom
    • 548 S.W.3d 40
    • 284th District Court of Montgomery County
    • Justice Horton, April 12, 2018
  • Sinclair appealed the trial court’s denial of their motion to compel arbitration. The crux of the dispute fell on whether the appraised complied with the appraisal method establish in the parties’ agreements. Haggblom argued that the appraiser’s opinion was final because the appraisal provision in the agreement stated that “determination of the [fair market value] . . . shall be binding upon the parties.” Sinclair, on the other hand, argued that the term “binding” did not overrule an arbitrable dispute.
  • The Ninth Court found that the parties’ agreements required the parties to arbitrate “[a]ny and all disputes, controversies, or claims arising out of or relating” to the agreements; therefore, given the broad scope of the arbitration agreement language, the dispute over the appraisal method was an arbitrable issue. Noting the State’s public policy of strongly favoring arbitration, the Ninth Court held that the trial court erred by denying the motion to compel arbitration, reversed the order, and remanded the case to resolve the dispute through arbitration.

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.

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.