Articles Posted in Texas Supreme Court

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Respondent, a principal at a school in the Yesleta Independent School District (ISD), reported various "asbestos hazards" in the school to certain school officials. Eventually, the ISD indefinitely suspended Respondent. Respondent filed this whistleblower claim, alleging that the ISD violated the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (Act) by failing to respond to his asbestos reports. In so claiming, Respondent submitted no evidence showing that the ISD enforced the Act beyond its own internal compliance or that he reported the allegations to anyone other than school officials. The trial court denied the ISD's plea to the jurisdiction, concluding that Respondent produced sufficient evidence of his good faith belief that the ISD's superintendent and trustees were authorized to regulate under or enforce the Act. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and granted the plea to the jurisdiction, holding that a report to personnel whose only power is to oversee compliance within the entity itself is not enough to confer "law-enforcement authority" status. View "Ysleta Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Franco" on Justia Law

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Respondent, a firefighter for the Houston Fire Department, suffered an on-the-job injury in 1988. The City of Houston and Respondent entered into a settlement agreement under which Respondent would receive lifetime medical expenses in exchange for releasing the City from any further claims derived from the injury. In 2004, the City stopped paying for many of Respondent's medical expenses, concluding they were not reasonable or necessary. A jury found for Respondent and awarded him $127,500 in damages. The City petitioned for the Supreme Court's review, arguing (1) the trial court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case because Respondent did not exhaust his administrative remedies as required by statute; and (2) governmental immunity shielded the City from suit. The Supreme Court reversed and dismissed Respondent's action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that Respondent failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as required by statute, and therefore, the trial court was divested of jurisdiction. View "City of Houston v. Rhule" on Justia Law

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This proceeding arose from an application to amend an existing water-quality permit filed by the owner and operator of a dairy farm located in the North Bosque River watershed. The City of Waco and Bosque River Coalition opposed the proposed permit. After the executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality determined that the application and draft permit met the requirements of applicable law, the Coalition asked to intervene as a party in a contested case hearing. The Commission denied the request, finding that the Commission lacked standing, and issued the permit. The district court affirmed, but the court of appeals reversed, finding that the Coalition was an "affected person" as defined by the Texas Water Code and thus was entitled to a contested case hearing. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, pursuant to Texas Commission on Environmental Quality v. City of Waco, the companion to this case, the Coalition's status as an affected person was not determinative of the right to a contested case hearing because the Water Code expressly exempted the proposed amendment from contested case procedures. View "Tex. Comm'n on Envtl. Quality v. Bosque River Coalition" on Justia Law

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Claimant suffered a compensable injury to his right ankle in 1991 and developed reflex sympathetic dystrophy in the injured ankle. In 1997, the appeals panel determined Claimant was entitled to Lifetime Income Benefits (LIBs). The workers' compensation carrier for Claimant's employer (Insurer) did not seek judicial review of that decision. More than a decade later, Insurer sought a new contested case hearing on Claimant's continuing eligibility for LIBs. A hearing officer found that Insurer could re-open the previous LIB determination but that Claimant remained entitled to LIBs. The appeals panel affirmed. Both parties sought judicial review. The trial court granted Claimant's motion for summary judgment, concluding that the hearing officer lacked jurisdiction to re-open the previous LIB determination. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Legislature does not allow permanent benefit determinations like LIBs to be re-opened. View "Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. v. Adcock" on Justia Law

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The City of Lorena approved a subdivision plat. The City, however, subsequently enforced a moratorium against the property, citing the municipality's additional sewage system capacity requirements. The landowner sued for a declaratory judgment that the moratorium did not apply against its approved development and for damages, alleging a regulatory taking under an inverse condemnation claim. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the City. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the moratorium could not apply to the property because the property had been approved for development before the moratorium took effect. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the moratorium did not apply to the property because the City approved the property for subdivision before it enacted the moratorium; and (2) in regards to the inverse condemnation claim, the trial court needed to resolve factual disputes before the merits of the takings claim could be judicially addressed. Remanded. View "City of Lorena v. BMTP Holdings, LP" on Justia Law

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The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (Commission) granted an amendment to a dairy concentrated animal feeding operation's water-quality permit. A downstream city (City) sought to intervene in the permit process and obtain a contested case hearing, claiming that the dairy's operations under the amended permit would adversely affect the quality of the municipal water supply. By rule, an affected person may request a contested case hearing when authorized by law. The Commission granted the amended permit without a contested case hearing. The City appealed, claiming it was an "affected person" entitled to a contested case hearing. The district court affirmed, but the court of appeals reversed, concluding that the City was an affected person entitled to a hearing. The Supreme Court reversed and rendered judgment for the Commission, holding (1) a person affected by a proposed water-quality permit has the right to request a hearing, but the Commission has discretion to deny the request under certain circumstances; and (2) sufficient evidence supported the Commission's determination that the proposed amended permit did not foreclose Commission discretion to consider the amended application at a regular meeting rather than after a contested case hearing. View "Tex. Comm'n on Envtl. Quality v. City of Waco" on Justia Law

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A government contractor (HCSC) contracted with the federal government to administer two health insurance programs. HCSC incurred expenses while performing the contracts that were reimbursed by the government. After the Comptroller denied HCSC's request for a refund for some of the sales and use taxes it paid on the expenses, HCSC brought tax-refund suits, claiming the purchases it made to administer the health-insurance programs qualified for the Tax Code's sale-for-resale exemption, which grants purchasers of taxable goods and services a sales-tax exemption if they resell the items. The lower courts determined HCSC was entitled to the claimed refunds. The Supreme Court affirmed on all but one issue, holding (1) the exemption applied to HCSC's requested refunds for tangible personal property and taxable services; but (2) the exemption did not apply to HCSC's requested refunds for leases of tangible of personal property. Remanded. View "Combs v. Health Care Servs. Corp." on Justia Law

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A staffing services company (Company) furnished workers for the City, including Respondent. During the course of his employment, Employee lost an arm working on a garbage truck driven by an employee of the City. Respondent sued the City and its employee (collectively, Petitioners). Petitioners filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting governmental immunity based in part on the exclusive remedy under the Texas Labor Code, which provides that recovery of workers' compensation benefits is the exclusive remedy of an employee covered by workers' compensation insurance. The trial court dismissed the case. The court of appeals reversed, holding that a fact question remained whether Respondent, who was paid by Company, was within the specific terms of the City's workers' compensation coverage. The Supreme Court reversed and dismissed the case, holding that, as a matter of law, the City provided Respondent's workers' compensation coverage, and therefore, Respondent's exclusive remedy was the compensation benefits to which he was entitled. View "City of Bellaire v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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A 2003 amendment to the Texas Constitution allowed the Legislature to delegate to a state agency the power to interpret certain provisions of the Constitution governing home equity lending. The state agency quickly issued final interpretations of the aforementioned provisions of the Constitution. Six homeowners then brought this action against the agency, challenging several of the interpretations. A bankers association intervened. The trial court invalidated many of the interpretations. The court of appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the agency's interpretations of the provisions of the Constitution governing home equity lending were subject to judicial review; (2) the homeowners had standing to assert their claims; and (3) of the three interpretations at issue in this appeal, one was valid and two were invalid. View "Fin. Comm'n of Tex. v. Norwood" on Justia Law

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The Texas legislature enacted two distinct "e911 fee" statutes to help fund the State's 911 emergency networks. The first statute, enacted in 1997, imposed on wireless subscribers a monthly emergency service fee, collected on the customer's bill. The second statute, enacted in 2010, imposed on prepaid wireless subscribers a flat fee collected by the retail seller when a consumer buys prepaid service. Before 2005, prepaid providers paid $2.3 million in e911 fees under the 1997 law. When the prepaid providers concluded that tax-preparation errors caused them erroneously to remit millions, they sought refunds of the amounts already paid. The Commission on State Emergency Communications (CSEC) initiated a case against the providers to determine the 1997 law's applicability to prepaid services. The CSEC adopted the ALJ's proposal for decision, which construed the 1997 law as imposing the e911 fee on prepaid wireless. After the legislature enacted the 2010 statute, the prepaid providers sought review. The trial court ordered refunds, holding that prepaid wireless was not covered by the 1997 law. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the pre-2010 statute does not tax prepaid service. View "TracFone Wireless, Inc. v. Comm'n on State Emergency Commc'ns" on Justia Law