As always, you can click through the docket numbers to find the underlying opinions, briefs, and other materials.
To be argued September 14, 2011
Texas Department of Public Safety v. Stephen Joseph Caruana, No. 10-0321
When a police officer botches the paperwork for a breath test, can the results still be used to revoke someone’s license? Here, the officer who administered a breath test failed to notarize the results. Caruana challenged the use of this document in a license-revocation hearing. The trial court and court of appeals agreed with him that the document could not be used against him.
Texas Department of Insurance v. American National Insurance Co. and American Life Insurance Co. of Texas, No. 10-0374
The Texas Department of Insurance has authority to regulate insurance but not “reinsurance,” which is commonly used behind the scenes to reallocate slices of risk between insurers. The question here is how to classify a “stop-loss agreement” entered between an insurance company and a company that has chosen to self-insure by directly offering benefits. Under such an agreement, the company would bear the losses up to a certain threshold, before the insurer’s contribution kicks in.
TDI calls this “insurance.” The insurers selling these policies say it’s more like “reinsurance.” The legal answer may come down to agency deference, as have so many cases in the past year.
To be argued September 15, 2011
Prairie View A&M University v. Diljit K. Chatha, No. 10-0353
There is a 180-day statute of limitations for a government employee’s complaint about discriminatory pay. The question presented is whether that runs from from the date of the paycheck embodying that decision or the (earlier) date on which the employee was told about the decision.
Atmos Energy Corporation, Centerpoint Energy Resources Corp. and Texas Gas Service Co. v. The Cities of Allen, et al., No. 10-0375
This is a case about the scope of the Railroad Commission’s authority when a city has rejected a utility’s rate schedule.
El Apple I, Ltd. v. Myriam Olivas, No. 10-0490
This is a question about calculating attorneys fees in an employment-discrimination case. The petition argues that a detailed lodestar method should be applied, with breakdowns for each specific task. It also argues that appellate fees should not be calculated in advance but should instead be calculated on remand.
This last question of how to calculate appellate attorneys fees might be of particular interest. The usual rule in Texas is that a final judgment should resolve these uncertainties beforehand. For that reason, trial courts typically calculate a flat fee for each stage of an appeal, based on the opinions offered by the trial attorneys. Given how off some of those estimates for appellate costs later turn out to be, I wouldn’t be surprised if an after-the-fact lodestar resulted in higher appellate fees. The question is whether they can be (or are required to be) calculated that way in Texas procedure.