With today’s orders list, the Texas Supreme Court issued decisions in three cases:
Travis Central Appraisal District v. Diane Lee Norman, No. 09-0100 (Medina, J.) (DDB). Much of the Court’s analysis focused on its 1995 decision in City of LaPorte v. Barfield, 898 S.W.3d 288 (Tex. 1995), which held that the Legislature had waived governmental immunity for “retaliatory discharge” claims brought by government employees. The Court noted that the statutes on which Barfield was based had, in the intervening 15 years, been amended by the Legislature. Analyzing the new version of the statutes, the Court concluded that its reasoning in Barfield could not be squared with this new language. Applying the principle that waivers of immunity must be unambiguous (and citing yet another statute added well after Barfield), the Court concluded that there was no longer any valid waiver of immunity and the retaliatory-discharge claim should be dismissed.
Terri Loftin v. Janice Lee and Bob Lee, No. 09-0313 (Hecht, J.) (DDB). In this case under the Texas Equine Activity Act, the Court concluded that a horse owner was shielded from liability for an accident in which a novice rider’s horse panicked on a muddy, vine-laden trail. The Court rejected an argument that the owner’s alleged negligence in choosing which trail to ride was not “inherent” (the word used in the statute) to equine activity.
Larry Roccaforte v. Jefferson County, No. 09-0326 (DDB). The Court concluded that a county that had actual notice of a pending lawsuit could not later seek dismissal because that notice had not also been delivered by certified mail. Justice Jefferson wrote the majority opinion. Justice Willett wrote an opinion concurring in part, which would have enforced the strict requirement that a certain type of mail be used.
In other notable orders:
Denial of rehearing: The Court denied rehearing in the Robinson asbestos case. (My post about the Robinson decision is here.)
Grant: The Court granted the petition for review in Texas Electric Utility Construction Ltd. v. Infrasource Underground Construction Services, LLC, No. 10-0628 (DDB). The argument date has not yet been announced.
Modified opinion on rehearing: Turtle Healthcare Group, L.L.C. d/b/a Fred’s Pharmacy v. Yolanda Higuera Linan, et al., No. 09-0613 (per curiam) (on reh’g) (DDB). The Court decided this case about the scope of the Texas medical-malpractice statute on February 25, 2011, concluding that a failed ventilator fell within the scope of the statute. (( My original post is here. )) Today, the Court denied the family’s motion for rehearing and substituted a new opinion that changes some language to clarify: “By response to the Linans’ motion for rehearing, Turtle waived its request for attorney’s fees and costs.”
Affirmance of parental-notification appeal: On Wednesday, the Court affirmed without comment a parental-notification appeal styled In re Jane Doe 15, No. 11-0291 (DDB). As someone who was clerking at the Court when the first wave of these appeals reached the Court, with deeply divided opinions issued in rapid succession, what’s notable is how infrequent these appeals have become. The Jane Doe 14 case was four years ago. Jane Doe 13 was in 2006. Jane Doe 12 was in 2003.
Dissent from denial of review: Justice Willett wrote an opinion dissenting from the Court’s denial of a petition raising the issue identified in his Roccaforte concurrence today. The petition that drew the dissent was Nueces County v. Joe Guadalupe Ballasteros, No. 09-0561 (DDB).